May’s Brexit deal rejected by House of Commons for a second time

MPs rejected the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons in a vote after 7pm on Tuesday. The deal was rejected by 391 votes to 242. Video: Parliament TV

 

Theresa May has offered Conservative MPs a free vote on Wednesday on a motion ruling out leaving the EU without a deal on March 29th after the House of Commons decisively rejected her Brexit deal for a second time. If MPs rule out leaving without a deal, they will vote on Thursday on whether to postpone Brexit by extending the article 50 negotiating deadline.

MPs rejected the deal by 391 votes to 242, a majority of 149, after attorney general Geoffrey Cox said legally binding changes Mrs May secured in Strasbourg on Monday had not eliminated the risk that Britain could be trapped indefinitely in the Northern Ireland backstop. The DUP and most Conservative Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) joined opposition parties to vote against the deal, although the margin was smaller than the 230 votes by which it was defeated in January.

‘Only deal’

The British government will publish on Wednesday morning information on tariffs and its approach to the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit. More than half of Irish beef exports go to the UK and the Irish food industry fears that Britain will allow a quantity of certain food products to be imported tariff-free from countries such as Brazil, New Zealand and Australia.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier expressed regret at the Westminster vote on Tuesday night, adding that the impasse could only be resolved in Britain. “The EU has done everything it can to help get the withdrawal agreement over the line,” he said.

A spokesman for European Council president Donald Tusk echoed those sentiments and reminded Britain that any extension of the article 50 deadline would have to be approved by all 27 EU leaders.

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“The EU for its part continues to stand by the withdrawal agreement including the backstop, which serves to prevent a hard border in Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market unless and until alternative arrangements can be found,” the spokesman said.

“With only 17 days left to 29th March, today’s vote has significantly increased the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit. We will continue our no-deal preparations and ensure that we will be ready if such a scenario arises. Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will consider it and decide by unanimity. The EU27 will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration. The smooth functioning of the EU institutions will need to be ensured.”

‘Regrettable’

Government sources in Dublin said the outcome of the vote was “regrettable” and added that “we’re now further intensifying our preparations for a no-deal Brexit”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the onus was now on Britain to come up with solutions. He said a no-deal Brexit was “a lose-lose-lose for everybody” but avoiding such an outcome needed the Westminster parliament to “buy into the process and agree something which this evening they couldn’t do”.

Government spokesmen declined to be drawn on British tariffs on EU goods and arrangements on the Border in the event of a no-deal outcome. With no-deal fears growing, the proposals will be closely watched in Dublin and the North.

British business groups reacted angrily to last night’s vote, with Caroline Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), calling for the main parties to work together to find a deal.

“Conservatives must consign red lines to history, Labour must come to the table with genuine commitment to solutions. It’s time to stop this circus,” she said.

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