British lawmakers vote to reject no-deal Brexit by 321 to 278

British lawmakers have voted to reject the UK leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement — under any circumstances, even after March 29. Germany's foreign minister hailed the move as a "signal of reason."

The House of Commons voted on Wednesday to rule out a no-deal Brexit scenario — an attempt to block the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union without a divorce agreement on March 29.

The second day of major Brexit votes comes a day after British lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to reject the withdrawal agreement brokered by Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU.

Lawmakers will now decide whether or not to ask Brussels to delay Brexit past its current March 29 deadline in another parliamentary Brexit vote on Thursday. A third vote on May's divorce deal is slated to be held on March 20.

Read more: Brexit: Is the EU willing to grant an Article 50 extension?

What happened during the vote

  • The British Parliament voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit by 321 to 278, backing an amended government motion. The reworded motion now rejects leaving the EU without a deal under any circumstance — something May previously said was impossible.
  • MPs narrowly voted 312 to 308 to amend the government's proposal in favor of ruling out a no-deal scenario indefinitely.
  • An amendment to have an "ordered" no-deal Brexit was defeated with 374 voting against and 164 in favor.
  • Parliament will vote on Thursday on whether to ask the EU for a delay.
  • The remaining 27 member states of the EU would need to unanimously agree to a Brexit delay, but EU leaders have said they need a solid reason for an extension.

Read more about how the vote unfolded below. All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC)

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02:42 mins.
Business | 13.03.2019

British companies stockpiling as Brexit looms

20:40 More information has been released on Thursday's vote. May's government will propose holding a third parliamentary vote on her divorce deal with the EU on March 20.

If British lawmakers reject the deal once again, then May says she will seek a Brexit deadline extension until June 30. It also states that the European Council is not likely to approve the extension without "a clear purpose" and that any longer extension would require the UK to hold European Parliament elections in May.

20:30 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has also weighed in on the latest Brexit vote, describing MP's decision as a "signal of reason."

"The House of Commons has at least shown that the majority does not want a no-deal. This no-deal is in nobody's interest and we have made that clear again and again," Maas said in a statement posted on Twitter.  "But now it is time for the British to say exactly what they want in order to bring the Brexit deal to a successful conclusion — because time is running out.

20:20 The European Commission warned British lawmakers that in order to ensure that a no-deal scenario doesn't happen, an agreement needs to be reached with Brussels.

"It's not enough to vote against no deal — you have to agree to a [Brexit] deal," a Commission spokeswoman said. "We agreed to a deal with the prime minister and the EU is ready to sign it."

20:10 British Prime Minister Theresa May said that there will be another vote on Thursday on whether or not to ask the EU to extend the Brexit deadline past March 29. Asking for more time would likely lead to "a short, limited technical extension," but if MPs don't approve her divorce deal with the EU, "there will need to be a much longer extension."

19:52 Shortly following the vote, May said that the House of Commons has provided a "clear majority" against leaving the EU without a deal, but that lawmakers must now work to find a solution, as Brussels has made clear that it is not willing to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.

19:50 MPs have voted 321 to 278 to reject a no-deal Brexit. The approved motion has changed greatly from the original draft submitted by the government. It now states that Parliament clearly rejects leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement — even after the Brexit deadline on March 29.

19:35 In the likely last vote of the night, lawmakers are voting on whether or not to support the government's motion — with the new amendment. It now reads: "this House rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship," according to the BBC.

19:33 MPs have overwhelmingly voted to reject Amendment F for an "ordered" no-deal Brexit, with 374 voting against it and 164 in favor of it.

19:20 Lawmakers are now voting on Amendment F — the Malthouse Compromise. This amendment provides for an "ordered" no-deal Brexit, including rights for EU citizens living in the UK, a transition period until the end of 2021 as well as a series of "standstill agreements" to hold current rules in place.

19:16 MPs narrowly voted to approve Amendment A by 312 to 308. The amendment calls for the British government to rule out a no-deal Brexit, even after the March 29 deadline. The wording goes beyond the government's original motion, which said that a no-deal scenario is the legal default unless the EU and the UK secure a deal before March 29.

19:00 Lawmakers are now voting on Amendment A — to rule out a no-deal Brexit under all circumstances.

18:45 As the next key parliamentary Brexit vote approaches, Theresa May has said that her fellow Conservative lawmakers will be allowed to vote as they choose rather than along party lines on the government proposal and on Amendment F — a proposal for a "managed no-deal Brexit." Earlier, May's spokesman said that Conservatives will not be given a "free vote" on Amendment A, which rules out a no-deal Brexit under all circumstances.

18:30 Authorities in the Netherlands are preparing a digital system to try and minimize disruptions at Dutch ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The "Portbase" system allows freight haulers to fill out forms online before they arrive at ferry terminals for trips to the UK. The online system is currently being used for trips outside of the EU and is now being adapted to include the short trip between the Netherlands and the UK.

A Dutch leaflet informing transporters how to get ready for Brexit

17:50 Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will not support May's motion on rejecting a no-deal Brexit, the party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told the BBC on Wednesday. Wilson said that the party instead would be backing Amendment F, or the "Malthouse Compromise," which sets up a structured plan for a no-deal Brexit. The DUP is currently propping up May's Conservative government.

17:25 There has been some confusion about whether Amendment A — which would attempt to rule out a no-Brexit deal under any scenario — will be voted on. Conservative lawmaker Caroline Spelman, who put forward the proposal, has said she no longer backs her amendment. Speaker John Bercow, however, said that Amendment A could still be voted on if one of the other signatories forces a vote on it.

16:50 The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that there is an informal Cabinet meeting scheduled at 18:10 UTC ahead of the votes on the "no deal."

16:30 French President Emmanuel Macron said that "a technical delay" for the March 29 Brexit deadline is possible, but that the UK would need to provide a clear reason.

"But if an additional delay is requested, they need to explain why," Macron said during a visit to Kenya. "It cannot be to allow more negotiations over something we've already negotiated for many months and said cannot be further negotiated."

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

June 2016: 'The will of the British people'

After a shrill referendum campaign, nearly 52 percent of British voters opted to leave the EU on June 24. Polls had shown a close race before the vote with a slight lead for those favoring remaining in the EU. Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned for Britain to stay, acknowledged the "will of the British people" and resigned the following morning.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

July 2016: 'Brexit means Brexit'

Former Home Secretary Theresa May replaced David Cameron as prime minister on July 11 and promised the country that "Brexit means Brexit." May had quietly supported the Remain campaign before the referendum. She did not initially say when her government would trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty to start the two-year talks leading to Britain's formal exit.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2017: 'We already miss you'

May eventually signed a diplomatic letter over six months later on March 29, 2017 to trigger Article 50. Hours later, Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, handed the note to European Council President Donald Tusk. Britain's exit was officially set for March 29, 2019. Tusk ended his brief statement on the decision with: "We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye."

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

June 2017: And they're off!

British Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, kicked off talks in Brussels on June 19. The first round ended with Britain reluctantly agreeing to follow the EU's timeline for the rest of the negotiations. The timeline split talks into two phases. The first would settle the terms of Britain's exit, and the second the terms of the EU-UK relationship post-Brexit.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

July-October 2017: Money, rights and Ireland

The second round of talks in mid-July began with an unflattering photo of a seemingly unprepared British team. It and subsequent rounds ended with little progress on three phase one issues: How much Britain still needed to pay into the EU budget after it leaves, the post-Brexit rights of EU and British citizens and whether Britain could keep an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

December 2017: Go-ahead for phase 2

Leaders of the remaining 27 EU members formally agreed that "sufficient progress" had been made to move on to phase two issues: the post-Brexit transition period and the future UK-EU trading relationship. While Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her delight at the decision, European Council President Tusk ominously warned that the second stage of talks would be "dramatically difficult."

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

July 2018: Johnson, Davis resign

British ministers appeared to back a Brexit plan at May's Chequers residence on July 6. The proposal would have kept Britain in a "combined customs territory" with the EU and signed up to a "common rulebook" on all goods. That went too far for British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, who resigned a few days later. May replaced them with Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

September 2018: No cherries for Britain

May's Chequers proposal did not go down well with EU leaders, who told her at a summit in Salzburg in late September that it was unacceptable. EU Council President Tusk trolled May on Instagram, captioning a picture of himself and May looking at cakes with the line: "A piece of cake perhaps? Sorry, no cherries." The gag echoed previous EU accusations of British cherry-picking.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

November 2018: Breakthrough in Brussels

EU leaders endorsed a 585-page draft divorce deal and political declaration on post-Brexit ties in late November. The draft had been widely condemned by pro- and anti-Brexit lawmakers in the British Parliament only weeks earlier. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned along with several other ministers, and dozens of Conservative Party members tried to trigger a no-confidence vote in May.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

December 2018: May survives rebellion

In the face of unrelenting opposition, May postponed a parliamentary vote on the deal on December 10. The next day, she met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek reassurances that would, she hoped, be enough to convince skeptical lawmakers to back the deal. But while she was away, hard-line Conservative lawmakers triggered a no-confidence vote. May won the vote a day later.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

January 2019: Agreement voted down

The UK Parliament voted 432 to 202 against May's Brexit deal on January 16. In response to the result, European Council President Donald Tusk suggested the only solution was for the UK to stay in the EU. Meanwhile, Britain's Labour Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, her second leadership challenge in as many months.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2019: Second defeat for May's deal

May tried to get legal changes to the deal's so-called Irish backstop in the weeks that followed. She eventually got assurances that the UK could suspend the backstop under certain circumstances. But on March 12, Parliament voted against the revised Brexit deal by 391 to 242. EU leaders warned the vote increased the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit. Two days later, MPs voted to delay Brexit.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2019: Extension after second defeat

Following the second defeat of May's divorce deal, the European Council met in Brussels on March 21 to decide what to do next. EU leaders gave May two options: delay Brexit until May 22 if MPs vote for the withdrawal deal or delay it until April 12 if they vote against the deal. If the deal were to fail again in Parliament, May could ask for a long extension.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2019: Brexit deal rejected a third time

On March 29, the day that the UK was supposed to leave the EU, British lawmakers voted for a third time against May's deal — rejecting it this time with a vote of 344 to 286. Following the latest defeat, May approached the main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to find a compromise, angering hardline Brexiteers in her own Conservative party.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

April 2019: Brexit delayed until Halloween

With the April 12 deadline looming after the third defeat of May's deal, EU leaders met again in Brussels to discuss a second delay. The only question was how long should it be? In the end, the UK and EU agreed to a "flexible" extension until October 31 — which can end sooner if the Brexit deal is approved. If the deal isn't ratified by May 22, the UK would have to take part in European elections.

16:15 Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party accused May of losing control over the Brexit process. "This is a rudderless government in the face of a huge national crisis," he said.

16:10 British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is losing her voice due to a cold, expressed frustration earlier on Wednesday over her deal's renewed defeat in Parliament on Tuesday, saying that there would be "hard choices" about what comes next. She has confirmed that she will be voting to reject a no-deal Brexit.

16:00 At the beginning of the latest Brexit debate in Parliament, Environment Secretary Michael Gove urged for lawmakers to consider the economic and constitutional challenges of leaving the EU without a deal, particularly the pressure on Northern Ireland.

15:45 What are lawmakers voting on tonight?

Government motion:

  • Parliament "declines to approve" leaving the EU without a deal on March 29.
  • The motion also notes, however, that leaving without a deal is the legal default unless a deal is agreed.

Ruling out 'no deal' (Amendment A — Spelman/Dromey amendment):

  • Parliament "rejects" leaving the EU without a deal — simplifying the language in the government proposal.
  • An attempt to rule out a no-deal Brexit under any scenario, including after March 29.

Related Subjects

No-deal Brexit compromise (Amendment F — Malthouse Compromise):

  • Proposes a plan to mitigate the damage of leaving the EU without a deal.
  • Asks the EU to delay Brexit until May 22 to allow businesses more time to prepare.
  • Seeks a number of "standstill agreements" with the EU to effectively sustain the current rules during a transition period. Transition agreement would not last beyond the end of 2021.
  • Guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

rs/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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