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British MPs have voted against a no-deal Brexit. So, what now?

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said today that one of the current risks is an ‘accidental no-deal Brexit’.

Prime Minister's Questions Source: PA Wire/PA Images

THE HOUSE OF Commons has voted against a no-deal Brexit with 321 MPs rejecting leaving the European Union without an agreement at any time. 

After a chaotic evening in Westminster, 278 voted against the motion which aims to rule out a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances.  

The Prime Minister’s motion had an amendment attached to it because of an earlier vote in the house. The initial motion read:

That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.

However, during tonight’s events, MPs also voted for a ‘no no-deal ever’ amendment as put down by Caroline Spelman. Its aim was to rule out a no-deal Brexit at any time rather than just up until 29 March, as Theresa May had proposed.

A total of 312 voted for it – ie to entirely reject a no-deal at any time now or in the future – while 308 voted against the amendment. 

That vote was essentially repeated as May’s main motion was altered to reflect the Spelman amendment. To add to the confusion of the evening, Spelman tried to pull her amendment but other signatories to it wanted it to be pushed and voted on. 

She said she wanted to stop the vote after it was clear the two main parties would “put their weight behind a no to ‘no deal’ amendment – the government motion”. 

She told BBC News that it would send “a very strong signal of the parties coming together in the national interest to make a clear statement that we do not want to crash out without a deal”.

In the end, it was voted on and MPs did completely reject a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances. It was not the way that May intended the evening to play out. 

Taking ‘no deal’ off the table entirely (politically, even if it can’t be take off the table in actuality) was not part of the UK’s negotiating plan. 

In the end, it is understood the Prime Minister voted against her own motion because of that amendment and there was some confusion over who in her party was whipped, and in what way. A number of Cabinet ministers are said to have abstained.  

The government had tried to whip its members but the final numbers show that a  significant cohort of 17 Tory MPs would have voted against the wishes of their party. 

A third vote

The so-called Malthouse B Compromise was also voted on but roundly rejected – with 164 politicians voting for it and 374 against. 

The motion asked for a delay until 22 May to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The amendment detailed how the British government should ask the EU for a ‘standstill pay-as-you-go’ arrangement until end-2021 at the latest, during which a future relationship would be carved out. 

So what happens now?

Tomorrow, the House of Commons will hold another vote. MPs will be asked whether they want to vote to request an extension to Article 50 from the European Union which would see Brexit delayed.

If passed, the UK would not leave the EU on the 29 March but May said the motion will ask politicians to vote on a ‘short, limited, technical’ extension to Article 50. 

However, it would have to ask the EU if it could do so. The EU has said it would be amenable to such a move – but it would need to know what the UK’s plan would be. 

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The motion proposes an extension until 30 June, a day before the new EU parliament will sit. 

May said that to get such an extension, there would have to be a deal in place, and that the only deal on offer is the current Withdrawal Agreement. 

The Prime Minister said that parliament needs to accept that the only other option open to them if that motion is rejected is to opt for a much longer extension.

As noted today by chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, one of the current risks is an ‘accidental no-deal Brexit’. 

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