British lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest effort to set the terms of Britain’s Brexit deal to split from the European Union on March 29.
The House of Commons voted 391-242 against May’s plan, setting up a Wednesday vote on whether Britain should quit the 28-nation EU bloc without agreeing on any of the details of its departure. And if that fails, a Thursday vote on whether to ask the EU for more time to negotiate an agreement.
May implored lawmakers to adopt the deal she negotiated Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for “legally binding changes” to ensure that the border between EU member Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland would remain open after Brexit.
But the outcome mirrored a January vote on an earlier plan, which May lost even more decisively, by 230 votes.
After losing again, May, the Conservative Party leader, told the House of Commons, “I continue to believe the best and only way” to quit the EU is “in an orderly way.”
She said the next options “are unenviable choices” — leaving without a deal, or asking for more time to negotiate after already spending months to reach terms of the now-defeated pacts.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s main opposition Labor Party, told the parliamentarians, “The government has now been defeated by an enormous majority. The prime minister has run down the clock, and the clock has run out on her.” He called for a new election.
Before Tuesday’s vote, May told lawmakers, “The danger for those of us who want to deliver, to have faith in the British public and deliver on their vote for Brexit, is that if this vote is not passed tonight, if this deal is not passed, then Brexit could be lost.”
Key opponents to her plan quickly emerged.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said May had only made “limited” progress in negotiating the new terms, and said its 10 members in parliament would vote against her plan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU had made “clear, far-reaching proposals” to address Britain’s concerns about the deal. But she deflected a question about whether she was willing to delay the British exit from the EU if British lawmakers could not agree on a plan.
The original deal, rejected two months ago, called for a backstop agreement that would keep Britain and the EU in a customs union until they agree on a new trade agreement. Opponents in Britain’s parliament said they were concerned about being locked into EU rules instead of being able to gain full control of trade policies.
May said the new terms agreed to Monday would ensure the backstop deal is not a permanent part of Britain’s exit from the EU.
The Labor Party rejected the plan, saying it still does not go far enough to allay its concerns.
Juncker warned that Britain is running out of options.
“It is this deal, or Brexit might not happen at all,” he said.