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Brexit deal rejected by UK parliament

January 15, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May has suffered a crushing defeat in the UK Parliament vote on her Brexit plan. With just over two months until the scheduled exit from the EU, the UK remains fiercely divided.

England: Symbolbild Brexit
Image: Reuters/H. Nicholls

British Prime Minister Theresa May's government suffered a devastating defeat in the House of Commons Tuesday evening, the largest in Britain's democratic era. She lost by 230 votes as the tally came in 432 members in favor to 202 against her EU withdrawal agreement.

Speaking after the vote, May said: "Every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour. The government has heard what the house has said tonight but I ask members on all sides of the house to listen to the British people who want this issue settled, and to work with the government to do just that."

May reacts to losing Brexit deal vote

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the defeat "catastrophic" and tabled a motion of no confidence in the government which will be held on Wednesday. May will meet with her cabinet ahead of the vote, and may be called on to resign, given the scale of the defeat.

May said that if her government won the confidence vote on Wednesday it would seek cross-party talks for a majority position on Brexit and then reopen talks with the EU if an alternative was found. Following a previous motion in the Commons, she has to present a statement on Brexit by next Monday.

Nearly all the MPs were present for the historic vote
Nearly all the MPs were present for the historic voteImage: Reuters

Scottish National Party (SNP) Westminster Leader Ian Blackford called for the withdrawal of article 50, raising the prospects of staging a second referendum.

The front pages of Britain's online and print newspapers on Wednesday were direct in their criticism of May: "Humiliation for Prime Minister," the Daily Telegraph remarked, "Brextinct — May's Brexit deal dead as a dodo," wrote The Sun while The Times confined itself to "May suffers historic defeat."

EU calls for clarity

European Council President Donald Tusk regretted the vote, but suggested the solution was for the UK to stay in the EU: "If a deal is impossible, and no one wants a no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?"

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged "the UK to clarify its intentions as soon as possible," adding, "time is almost up."

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said: "Now it's time for the UK to tell us the next steps and on our side we will remain united and determined to reach a deal."

Leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said "a hard Brexit will be the worst of all options."

Brexit on the Irish border

The Irish government put out a statement repeating the decision of the European Council at its December 13 meeting when it said the withdrawal agreement was "not open for renegotiation." It called on the UK government to set out its proposals for what it intends to do.

Speaking during a marathon seven-hour debate with local officials in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said that "the first losers" in a no-deal Brexit "would be the British."

"Either way, we will have to negotiate a transition period with them because the British cannot afford to no longer have planes taking off or landing at home, and their supermarkets, as much as 70 percent, is supplied with (products) from continental Europe," Macron added.

Protesters of all persuasions were outside parliament during the vote
Protesters of all persuasions were outside parliament during the voteImage: Getty Images/AFP/P. Ellis

EU holds firm

European politicians reiterated the fact that Britain could expect no further concessions no matter how the vote in London ended.

"The EU has nothing to regret in terms of our negotiations with the UK," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that he was skeptical about the prospects of reopening negotiations: "I don't believe that any completely new solutions beyond those that we have already negotiated and agreed to will be put on the table."

js,jm/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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