U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected once again by Parliament, throwing the country deeper into political crisis and raising the prospect that the divorce will be delayed or even reversed.
Renegotiated late on Monday night, the latest version of the deal was defeated by 391 votes to 242. That’s less than the record 230-vote margin she suffered in January, but still a stinging repudiation of two years of painstaking work.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, whose damning assessment on the new terms meant critics held firm, said in an interview that an extension to the U.K’s departure date from the European Union beyond March 29 was “inevitable.”
In fact with the deal all but dead, Parliament will probably vote to postpone Brexit this week, and lawmakers — including some of May’s own Cabinet — will likely try to maneuver to force the government to rip up its Brexit plans and start again.
Members of Parliament are expected to vote Wednesday to take a chaotic no-deal option off the table. May said she’ll offer a free vote, meaning the government will not whip Conservative lawmakers to take a particular side.
But there’s a risk all they manage to do is postpone the drama for another few months. It was notable that she included a second referendum on Brexit among the choices Parliament may face in coming months. The pound pared losses after May spoke.
“Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face,” May said. “I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the U.K. leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available.”
A spokesman for EU President Donald Tusk said the result increases the risk of the U.K. crashing out the bloc without a deal. He said the EU will consider any request from the government to delay Brexit day but there needs to be a “credible justification for a possible extension and its duration.”
The EU has done “all that is possible to reach an agreement” and the solution to the deadlock “can only be found in London.”