MPs have voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit in all circumstances, with Theresa May warning of a lengthy delay to the UK’s departure from the EU.
The prime minister suffered fresh humiliation in the House of Commons on Wednesday night – accompanied by a ministerial resignation – as MPs voted rejected leaving without a withdrawal agreement in a 321-278 vote.
Although non-binding, the result comes as a fresh blow for Mrs May, who had only supported the rejection of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.
MPs spurned her proposition by instead backing the ruling out of no deal completely.
In response to the vote, the pound rose against the dollar to its highest level since June last year.
After the result, the prime minister confirmed she will now allow MPs a vote on whether to extend the Article 50 negotiating period to delay Brexit beyond 29 March.
A motion to be put forward by the prime minister on Thursday will propose delaying Brexit until 30 June if MPs back a Brexit deal by 20 March.
Her motion will also state, if a Brexit deal is not agreed in a week’s time, the EU would “require a clear purpose” for any extension to Article 50, the two-year window for negotiating the UK’s exit from the bloc.
The wording of the motion has raised expectations that the government will hold a third vote on the deal next week, before an EU summit on 21 and 22 March.
Mrs May told the Commons, despite its vote against a no-deal Brexit, the “legal default” remains the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement “unless something else is agreed”.
She said: “The onus is now on every one of us in this House to find out what that is.
“The options before us are the same as they have always been: we could leave with the deal which this government has negotiated over the past two years.
“We could leave with the deal we have negotiated but subject to a second referendum.
“But that would risk no Brexit at all, damaging the fragile trust between the British public and the members of this House.
“We could seek to negotiate a different deal. However, the EU have been clear that the deal on the table is indeed the only deal available.”
Mrs May added a “short technical extension” to Article 50 is “only likely” to be offered by the EU “if we have a deal in place”.
The rejection of a no-deal Brexit by MPs suggested that – without a withdrawal agreement – the Commons is suggesting there will need to be “a much longer extension to Article 50”, the prime minister said.
This would require the UK to take part in elections to the European Parliament in May, the prime minister continued, adding: “I do not think that would be the right outcome.”
Mrs May told MPs they need to “face up to the consequences” of their decisions.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs a delay to Brexit is now “inevitable”, adding: “Parliament must now take control of the situation.”
The EU echoed Mrs May’s stance that the only way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is to support a withdrawal agreement.
A European Commission Spokesperson said: “We take note of the votes in the House of Commons this evening.
“There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both.
“To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal – you have to agree to a deal.
“We have agreed a deal with the prime minister and the EU is ready to sign it.”
Another dramatic night in the Commons on Wednesday saw 17 Conservative MPs rebel against Mrs May to vote to reject a no-deal Brexit completely.
This included Sarah Newton, who resigned as a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions in order to defy her party’s orders.
Cabinet ministers Amber Rudd, Greg Clark, David Gauke and David Mundell abstained from the vote but were not expected to be sacked by Mrs May, according to Sky sources.
The votes in the Commons also saw the comfortable defeat of a plan for a managed no-deal Brexit by Conservative backbenchers.
The so-called “Malthouse compromise” was rejected by 374 votes to 164.
Earlier, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who opened Wednesday’s debate on no-deal Brexit, did not rule out the government returning to the Commons with the prime minister’s Brexit deal for a third time.
This is despite two large defeats for Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement within three months.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote on extending Article 50, Conservative eurosceptics launched an effort to kill off a possible second EU referendum.
The European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers have tabled a motion stating a fresh public vote “would be divisive and expensive, and therefore should not take place”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chancellor Philip Hammond told MPs they had the chance to “start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus” when they vote on delaying Brexit.
He also urged them to “remove the threat of an imminent no-deal exit hanging over our economy”.
His remarks revealed splits within both the government and his own department, with Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss telling Sky News: “We need to keep no deal on the table otherwise we lose our negotiating leverage.”
“I prefer no deal to no Brexit.”
Mrs May was told by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn her Brexit strategy is “in tatters” following the second rejection of her withdrawal agreement by MPs.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Corbyn said the 149-vote defeat had left her deal “dead”.
However, Mrs May signalled she could yet try and revive her agreement.
She said: “People want to leave the EU, they want to end free movement, they want us to have our own trade policy, and they want to ensure laws are made in this country and judged in our courts.
“That is what the deal delivers, and that is what I continue to work to deliver.”