UK Parliament rejects British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for a second time

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British Prime Minister Theresa May has secured "legally binding changes" which improve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told the British parliament. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered another major defeat after her improved Brexit deal, bolstered by an eleventh-hour agreement with the EU, was voted down at the House of Commons on Tuesday night (March 12) in London.

UK lawmakers rejected her deal by 391 to 242 votes in yet another devastating blow to Mrs May. In January, her deal was rejected by a resounding 230 votes.

MPs are now slated to vote on Wednesday (3am on Thursday, Singapore time) whether the UK should leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal, and if that fails, they will vote on whether to delay Brexit.

The Sterling, which had earlier on Tuesday fallen by 2 per cent to US$1.3005, was trading at around US$1.3086 shortly after the vote, Reuters reported.

Addressing the House of Commons after the votes were tallied, Mrs May said she "profoundly regrets" the decision made by lawmakers on Tuesday night.

She reiterated the best outcome is for the UK to leave the European Union in "an orderly fashion, with a deal", adding that "the deal we negotiated is the best and indeed, the only deal available."

She also announced a "free vote" on Wednesday's no-deal Brexit motion - an unwhipped vote where members of Parliament are not pressured to vote along party lines.

A spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said in a statement that British Parliament's rejection of the Brexit deal has "significantly increased the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit".

"On the EU side, we have done all that is possible to reach an agreement... it is difficult to see what more we can do.

"Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will consider it and decide by unanimity," the spokesman added.

The EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier echoed Mr Tusk's statement, ruling out further concessions for Britain leaving the bloc. He tweeted:"The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the UK. Our 'no-deal' preparations are now more important than ever before."

Uncertainty over Brexit remains with just 16 days to go until Britain's scheduled departure from the EU.

On Parliament's impasse, Mrs May said: "Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face...

"The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension. This House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke Article 50 (the intention to leave the EU)? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal, but not this deal?"

Addressing the house after Mrs May, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested that it may be time for a general election. He said: "The Prime Minister has run down the clock, and the clock has been run out on her."

On Monday night, Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker held a joint press conference in Strasbourg where they unveiled additional legal assurances to the withdrawal agreement.

There, Mr Juncker added that there will be no further renegotiation to the Brexit deal - "there will be no third chance."

He said: "There will be no further interpretations of the interpretations, no further assurances of the reassurances if the 'meaningful vote' tomorrow fails."

Mr Juncker also warned that the UK should exit before EU voters elect a new European Parliament, if not it will be "legally required" elect its own EU lawmakers, which will take place between May 23 and 26.

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