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MPs vote against a no-deal Brexit option

by Paul Francis and Geoffrey Bew

MPs have voted twice to scrap the option of keeping a Brexit no-deal on the table as another dramatic day at Westminster unfolded.

They initially rejected crashing out of the EU with nothing in place by 312 votes to 308 - a majority of only four.

It was based an amendment by Tory MP Dame Caroline Spelman.

Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29
Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29

MPs also rejected an amendment to delay Brexit until May 22 by 374 votes to 164 - a majority of 210.

They then voted on a government motion to rule out a no-deal Brexit by 321 votes to 278 - a majority of 43.

Speaking immediately after the result of the vote was announced, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The legal default in UK and EU remains that the UK would leave the EU without a deal unless something else is agreed.

"The onus is now on everyone of us in this house to find out what that is. The options before us are the same as they always have been.

"We could leave with the deal which this government has negotiated over the past two years, we could leave with the deal negotiated subject to a second referendum, but that would risk no Brexit at all, damaging the fragile trust between the British public and the members of this house.

"We could seek to negotiate a different deal, however, the EU has been clear the deal on the table is the only deal available.

Prime minister Theresa May
Prime minister Theresa May

"I also confirmed last night that if the house declined to approve leaving without a deal on March 29 the government would bring forward a motion on whether the house supports seeking to agree an extension to article 50 with the EU, which is the logical consequence of the votes over the last two days.

"If the house finds a way in the coming days to support a deal it would allow the government to seek a short, limited, technical extension to article 50 to provide time to pass the necessary legislation and to ratify the agreement we have reached with the EU.

"The house needs to face up to the consequences for the decisions it has taken."

Responding to Mrs May's comments, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Tonight this house has once again definitely ruled out no-deal.

"The Prime Minister said the choice was between her deal and no-deal.

"In the last 24 hours parliament has decisively rejected both her deal and no-deal.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

"While an extension of article 50 is now inevitable, responsibility for that extension now relies solely and squarely at the Prime Minister's door.

"But extending article 50 without a clear objective is not a solution. Parliament must now take control of the situation."

Mr Corbyn said he and other key MPs would have meetings with members across parliament in the coming days to try and find a deal that can get the support of MPs.

The dramatic events came after the Chancellor Philip Hammond warned that uncertainty over the UK's exit plans was hurting the economy.

In his Spring statement, he told MPs: "The uncertainty that I hoped would be lifted last night still hangs over it [economy] and we cannot allow that to continue.

"It is damaging our economy and damaging our reputation in the world.

"We can remove the imminent threat of no-deal hanging over us tonight...we have huge opportunities ahead of us."

Kent MPs Charlie Elphicke and Craig Mackinlay both voted to keep the no-deal option open, saying that it was to the UK's advantage in its negotiations with the EU.

The Prime Minister suffered a second crushing defeat in a bid to persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage made an intervention in the debate on 'no deal' telling the EU that it should block any effort to agree to an extension under Article 50.

He told the European Parliament today: "We don’t want to waste another four years of our life, four more years of agony, and you don’t want to waste another four years. There is a simple solution and that is that the British request to extend is vetoed at that European Summit. We leave on March 29. In the European elections, you don’t want me coming back here, or hordes of Eurosceptics coming back here.”

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