Theresa May's exit deal failed by 58 votes, and April 12 beckons as a new date for the UK's exit from the EU. More indicative votes are on the table, while the EU prepares for a 'no-deal' scenario.
The Conservative government lost its Brexit vote in the House of Commons on Friday by a margin of 58 votes, on the day the UK had been scheduled to leave the EU.
The heavier than anticipated loss by 344-286 votes has put Prime Minister Theresa May's deal with the EU in serious doubt.
As May described the situation as "grave" after the defeat, she also hinted at a general election: "I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House." Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn again called for an election after the vote.
The result means the UK has failed to meet a 2300 UTC deadline and thus loses the automatic extension of the Article 50 negotiating period until May 22, which the EU had offered last week.
New way forward
The British government now has to propose a new way forward to the EU by April 12 — or revoke the Article 50 mechanism it triggered to leave the bloc. Otherwise, the UK will have left the EU without a deal.
The European Council (EC) reacted to Friday's vote by announcing a special meeting for April 10 to discuss Brexit, and a possible extension that would involve the UK taking part in the elections for the European Parliament in May.
"In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April," EC President Donald Tusk wrote.
The European Commission responded by saying a "no-deal scenario on 12 April is now likely," adding that the benefits of the Withdrawal Agreement would not be replicated under such circumstances.
"The Commission regrets the negative vote in the House of Commons today," the Commission said in a statement. "It will be for the UK to indicate the way forward before" April 12.
"The benefits of the Withdrawal Agreement, including a transition period, will in no circumstances be replicated in a 'no-deal' scenario. Sectoral mini-deals are not an option," the Commission said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas echoed the European Commission's comments: "We are running out of time to prevent a disorderly Brexit," he wrote on Twitter on Friday. "The British must decide before April 12 how to proceed. Otherwise, it is a no-deal Brexit, as tough as that would be. Germany and the EU are well prepared in any case."
The immediate next step in terms of parliamentary process in the UK is another round of indicative votes tabled by non-ministerial lawmakers to be held next week.
There was no approval of any of the eight proposals in the first such round held on Wednesday, but two proposals did gather more than 260 votes in the 650-seat chamber. They were for:
Labour's motion proposing a close economic relationship with the EU gathered 237 votes in favor and 307 against.
It is unclear what May and her government will do next.
jm/ng (Reuters, AP)