Prime Minister Theresa May’s “improved” Brexit deal failed to pass the U.K. parliament after being voted down by a majority of 149 members Tuesday evening.
The humiliating defeat came approximately two months after the same deal was rejected by a majority of 230 MPs, giving May one of the worst defeats for a sitting government in British history.
Tuesday's vote saw 391 MPs voting against the EU withdrawal agreement, political declaration and three newly added documents, which May argued were “legally binding”. Some 242 MPs voted for the deal.
May was given a mandate by the parliament to negotiate further with EU officials for “alternative arrangements” that would replace the backstop option -- a condition which would keep the U.K. aligned with the EU until a final solution is found to avoid a hard border in the island of Ireland.
In a last ditch effort, May traveled to Strasbourg Monday evening and said in a press conference with European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker that “legally binding changes” were secured.
May and Juncker urged British MPs to approve the deal.
However, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox published his legal advice Tuesday, saying the risk of remaining in a backstop remained unchanged.
The European Research Group (ERG) -- a pro-Brexit group of MPs within May’s Conservative Party -- and the government’s de facto partners and Northern Ireland’s biggest party the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) announced earlier that they would not back the deal.
Most of the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) also voted against the deal.
“I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight,” May said following the defeat.
“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,” May told lawmakers.
She said the government would table a motion to give MPs a debate Wednesday on whether the U.K. should leave the EU without a deal on March 29.
She said that she would offer her MPs a “free vote” on Wednesday.
“Voting against leaving without a deal, and for an extension, does not solve the problems we face,” May said.
She said: “The EU will want to know what use we want to make of that extension. The house will have to answer that question.”
Tuesday’s defeat paves the way for two more crucial votes this week, as British lawmakers are set to vote on whether the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal and then to vote on whether to revoke Article 50 -- a two-year-long process for any leaving EU member to complete.
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal