An urgent Brexit news update: Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected in a stunning, historic defeat. Although the Brexit leaving agreement negotiated by May’s government was expected to face strong opposition when put to a parliamentary vote, the scale of defeat came as a surprise.
Now, the future of the Brexit separation of the UK from the EU has been thrown in doubt, with Brussels investigating options to extend the period of Brexit negotiations past the expected exit date of March 29th, 2019. The rejection of the deal has also reignited calls for a second Brexit referendum, most notably from the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the British Labour party are planning to instigate a second vote of no-confidence in May’s government. As Brexit could affect UK travelers in the Eurozone, many British frequent flyers are undoubtedly hoping that a second vote can somehow come about.
How Did Parliament Vote on the Brexit Deal?
On 15th January 2019, the House of Commons of the British Parliament gathered to vote on the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May and her government for the UK to leave the EU. May had previously declared the event to be “the most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers”, and that the outcome would “define our country for decades to come". However, opposition for May's deal had been steadily growing, especially after it was revealed that UK citizens traveling to Europe after Brexit would be required to pay a fee.
Although May appeared confident at the beginning of the day, a positive outcome for the Prime Minister began to look less and less likely as a succession of MPs from her own party vocally expressed their displeasure with her Brexit deal.
By the end of the day, the Prime Minister’s commitment to honor the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum and take the UK out of the European Union by March 29th seemed impossible. Surpassing all expectations, a total of 432 MPs voted against the deal, winning with a 230 majority over those 202 who were happy with May’s negotiations.
The surprising result marks the biggest British government defeat in a vote in almost a century, with both Remain and Leave supporters uniting to bring down what they saw as a bad Brexit deal from May.
What Happens Now?
Just before the Brexit deal vote took place, the leader of the UK Labour Party and May’s opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, announced his intention to call for a vote of no-confidence in May’s government if the deal flopped. Even though the next one is not due until 2022, Corbyn also stated his belief that an immediate general election would be in the best interests of the British people.
However, immediately after the Brexit deal vote rejection, Theresa May addressed parliament to say she would welcome a vote of no confidence in the government. Soon after, the European Research Group (ERG) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), both Brexit-backers, announced that they would support the prime minister, making it unlikely that Labour will be able to trigger a general election.
Before the Brexit deal defeat took place, May also declared her intention to hold meetings with senior MPs from all parties to determine how to secure majority backing in parliament, in the case of a loss. Therefore, it appears that the Prime Minister is not prepared to go down without fighting for the Brexit deal she helped to negotiate.
EU Reaction to the Brexit Deal Defeat
Before the Brexit deal vote in the House of Commons, the President of the Eurogroup, Mario Centeno, stated that the United Kingdom would be able to continue negotiations with Europe in the event of rejection and be able to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
However, after May’s Brexit deal was rejected, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission (EC) declared that the result of the vote increases the probability of a no-deal exit for the United Kingdom from the EU, and called for London to quickly "clarify" its intentions.
Meanwhile, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, appeared to offer a thinly veiled solution in the format of a message on Twitter. Acknowledging that a Brexit deal now seemed “impossible”, Tusk suggested there was “only one positive solution” that needed to be considered, interpreted by many as a reversal of Brexit negotiations.
With the majority on both sides concerned that a no-deal Brexit would be a “catastrophe” and the success of new negotiations far from assured, the notion of a second Brexit referendum spearheaded by Corbyn’s party does not seem as far-fetched as it once did. However, the Labour leader has so far resisted committing to one, focusing first on the no-confidence vote against May and her government.
Check back for more pressing Brexit news updates as the situation develops.