British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a crushing defeat in the Parliament on January 15, 2019 when over 100 lawmakers of May's Conservative party - both Brexiteers and Remainers, voted against the Brexit deal.
The lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected Britain’s withdrawal deal by a vote of 432 to 202, a majority of 230 votes, with just 73 days to go until Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union. The withdrawal agreement had been negotiated between Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.
Theresa May’s defeat is the biggest-ever defeat suffered by a British premier in modern history. The only other comparable party split and parliamentary defeat happened in 1886, when Prime Minister William Gladstone's support for Irish home rule cut the Liberal Party in two.
The crushing defeat marks the collapse of May’s two-year strategy of forging an amicable exit with close ties to the EU. The rejection has also complicated and increased doubts about how or whether Britain will leave the European Union on March 29.
May wins no-confidence vote
May's minority government on January 16, 2019 won the no-confidence motion, which was tabled by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn following the rejection of the Brexit deal, with 325 votes in favour of her government and 306 against, by a majority of 19 votes.
After the results were declared, May called on the MPs to put self-interest aside and work constructively together to find a way forward for Brexit. She told them that she would continue to work on the promise made to the people of the country on the result of the referendum and leaving the EU.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a six-hour debate on his motion said that his party has not ruled out tabling further no-confidence motions. May had previously survived a no-confidence vote by her Conservative Party in December 2018.
What Happens Next?
Theresa May had called Brexit vote in Parliament as the most important in a generation. She told the lawmakers that the choice was plain, either support her compromise deal - the only one that Europe will abide, as the EU refused to go over the deal again or face the idea of a no-deal Brexit.
The vote against her deal was decisive. Moments after the result came in, May said, "the government has heard what the House has said tonight."
Despite the huge defeat, May has said she still wants to fulfil her duty to deliver on Britain's 2016 vote for leaving the EU.
With the defeat of the Brexit deal, three key options lay before the British Government now:
1. Re-negotiate with EU for a new deal
• May, who now has three days to bring a revised plan back to parliament, will now most likely seek concessions from the EU, then put her deal to parliament a second time.
• However, the EU has said it will not negotiate the deal again. Now, with the margin of her defeat, it is more unlikely that EU would give May more concessions.
• The British government and EU leaders have said that their agreement is the best compromise available. However, the members of her Conservative party argue that the deal keeps Britain too close to the EU, while opposition parties say that it fails to protect economic ties with the bloc.
• The two sides also oppose the plan of keeping the Irish border open, which could see Britain indefinitely follow European rules on trade. May's agreement was meant to keep trade rules between the world's fifth-biggest economy and its largest export market almost unchanged for a transition period running to the end of 2020.
• However, there is nothing that can stop the government from bringing the same deal back again to the House of Commons until either MPs accept it or seek to remove May.
2. No-deal Brexit
• This is the most likely scenario that the United Kingdom is heading towards currently. Critics claim the situation to be economically disastrous for both UK and EU, saying that it threatens to trigger a recession in Britain and markedly slow EU's economic growth.
• However, if the deal is re-introduced in the parliament and is defeated again then there would probably be no other solution than this before March 29.
3. New Brexit Referendum
• EU supporters have been calling for another vote ever since the "Leave EU" campaign won the 2016 referendum.
• Though, there is no law keeping Britain from doing the referendum all over again, many question on whether the move would be democratic. It also threatens to be just as divisive, with opinion polls showing the country is still split over the issue.
• Despite the huge defeat, May has said she still wants to fulfil her duty to deliver on Britain's 2016 vote for leaving the EU.
EU reaction to Brexit vote
In a statement following May's defeat, Juncker said he "regretted" the result of the vote."The risk of disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with the vote," Juncker said.
The Brexit vote was initially scheduled to be held on December 11 but was postponed by May when it became clear to her that she faced a certain defeat.
Prior to the vote, May had warned the British legislators that if the plan was rejected, a catastrophe would follow.
The United Kingdome is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, two years after the Brexit referendum in June 2016 that triggered Article 50, the exit clause in the EU's constitution and kick-started arduous negotiations with European leaders over a divorce deal.
The EU deal was finally reached in November 2018. However, since reaching a deal in November, the agreement has come under fire from across the political spectrum, with opponents of the EU seeking a cleaner break and pro-European legislators pressing for a second vote on membership in the bloc.
A second referendum, however, has been opposed by both May and main opposition leader Corbyn. It has, however, won the support of many labour MPs, who say that the decision should be put back to the people for a final say, in a public vote, with the option to stay and keep the Brexit deal.