British lawmakers crush Theresa May's Brexit deal by record margin

Source: HO / PRU / AFP

Theresa May's Brexit deal has been crushed by a record margin as British lawmakers rejected it by 432 votes to 202.

After eight days of parliamentary debate and 200 speeches, members of the House of Commons ignored the Prime Minister's final pleas and delivered a humiliating verdict on her plan to take Britain out of the European Union.

The result — the worst parliamentary defeat for a British government in the modern era — means the Prime Minister now faces a deep political crisis, with no clear path out of the mess.

Speaking moments after May's humiliating defeat, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn put forward a motion of no confidence in May's government.

Corbyn said the challenge would allow the Commons to “give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this Government.”

May told the House of Commons after the vote: “The House has spoken and the Government will listen. It is clear that the House does not support this deal.”

Minutes after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against May's deal, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?”

Tuesday night's vote was the product of more than two and a half years of negotiations after 51.9% of British people voted to leave the EU in 2016. And with just 73 days left before the country is due to leave the EU, the UK is no closer to knowing will happen post-March 29.

Inconveniently for May, untangling a 45-year marriage was not as easy as some Brexiteers claimed it would be. Particularly when it comes to the contentious Irish backstop — an insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Ireland — which has been a thorn in the side of May's deal.

May's defeat seemed inevitable since she secured the withdrawal agreement in Brussels in November. Lawmakers were supposed to vote on her deal in December but the process was thrown into disarray after May pulled the plug on the parliamentary vote and delayed it until now. She admitted her decision to delay it in December was made after it became clear she would lose it “by a significant margin.”

May's biggest challenge came from hardline pro-Brexit lawmakers within her own Conservative party — their opposition to what they see as an overly soft exit has dogged her deal from the start.

Going forward, possible scenarios for the UK include an attempted (but probably doomed) renegotiation with the EU by May, extending the article 50 process, a collapse of the Conservative government and a general election, a change of prime minister, a second EU referendum, scrapping Brexit altogether, or crashing out of the EU with a no-deal.