Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU withdrawal deal has been rejected by MPs for a second time, throwing her Brexit strategy into further confusion.
MPs voted down her deal by 391 to 242 – a smaller defeat than when they rejected it in January.
The PM said MPs will now get a vote on whether the UK should leave without a deal on 29 March and, if that fails, on whether Brexit should be delayed.
She said Tory MPs will get a free vote on a no-deal Brexit.
That means they can vote with their conscience rather than follow the orders of party managers.
If the Commons declines to approve a no-deal Brexit in a vote on Wednesday, a vote on extending Article 50, the legal mechanism taking the UK out of the EU on 29 March, will take place on Thursday, said Mrs May.
Announcing the free vote, she told MPs: “This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country.
“Just like the referendum there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.
“For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the House.”
She said that the choices facing the UK were “unenviable”, but because of the rejection of her deal, “they are choices that must be faced”.
The EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in a tweet: “The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the UK. Our ‘no-deal’ preparations are now more important than ever before.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister should now call a general election.
Some 75 Conservative MPs voted against the PM’s deal, compared with 118 who voted against it in January.
Mrs May had earlier warned MPs that if they did not back her “improved deal” they risked “no Brexit at all”.
But she failed to convince enough of them that concessions she had agreed at the last minute with the EU were the “legally-binding” changes they had demanded when they rejected the deal by 230 votes in January.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which keeps her government in power, voted against the deal, along with Brexiteer Conservative backbenchers.
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