A ‘no deal’ Brexit has become “almost inevitable” after UK lawmakers again failed to break the Brexit deadlock on Monday night (1 April), narrowly rejecting all four alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
In the second round of ‘indicative’ votes on four versions of a soft Brexit or a second referendum, the proposal tabled by veteran pro-European Conservative Ken Clarke for a permanent customs union came closest, falling by 273 to 276 votes. A plan for a second referendum was also narrowly defeated by 280 to 292.
The failure of lawmakers to back any Brexit plan pushes the UK closer to a ‘no deal’ Brexit on 12 April.
The process was launched after MPs voted to take control of the Brexit agenda from the government after repeatedly defeating May’s deal negotiated with the European Union. Cabinet ministers were ordered not to vote for any of the four options.
MPs rejected May’s agreement for a third time on Friday by a 286 to 344 margin.
Following the announcement of Monday’s votes, Clarke urged MPs from opposition parties to abandon their campaign for a second referendum, describing his proposal as the only way which could command a sizable majority.
Meanwhile, fellow Conservative MP, Nick Boles announced his resignation from the party whip after seeing his proposal for the UK to stay in the EU’s single market defeated by a 21 majority, stating that he had “failed chiefly because my party refuses to compromise”.
Both the Clarke and Boles plans were defeated after over 30 MPs supporting a second ‘People’s Vote’ either abstained or voted against them, prompting anger from MPs who support a ‘soft Brexit’.
Despite the defeats, further votes are set to take place on Wednesday.
“A hard Brexit becomes nearly inevitable,” warned Guy Verhofstadt, who chairs the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering group, after the votes.
He added that MPs would have “one last chance to avoid the abyss on Wednesday”.
“The default legal position is the UK will leave the EU on April 12,” said UK’s Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.
“The only option is to find a way through for the UK to leave with a deal. If the House can agree a deal this week it could still be possible to avoid holding European elections,” he added.
Earlier, Downing Street officials briefed that Theresa May’s cabinet will gather on Tuesday morning for a five hour meeting in a bid to agree on a plan. It appears unlikely that May’s deal will obtain a majority before 12 April, potentially leaving the UK government to decide between a ‘no deal’ scenario and a lengthy extension to Article 50.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski]