• With Britain in political crisis and a new deadline to leave the European Union two weeks away, Parliament on Friday rejected, by a vote of 334 to 286, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan for a third time.
• Lawmakers voted down the 585-page withdrawal agreement, which details Britain’s relationship to the European Union through the end of 2020.
• The vote means that Britain is moving closer to a withdrawal on April 12 without an agreement — the “no-deal” scenario that many economists and officials have warned would do serious economic damage. The only alternative may be a long delay, a move opposed by pro-Brexit lawmakers.• In a bid to win over hard-line Brexit supporters, Mrs. May promised Conservative lawmakers this week that she would step down as prime minister if the deal were approved. She had hoped that enough lawmakers would reverse course, despite their concerns, rather than risk crashing out without a deal.
Opposition complains that the government has made things less clear
What is a blindfold Brexit?
That is the name the opposition Labour Party has given to Mrs. May’s ploy of splitting her deal in two: a withdrawal agreement that gets Britain out of the European Union’s door, and a political declaration that says where it is supposed to go from there.
For tactical reasons, the Conservative government wanted Parliament to vote on them separately. But Labour leaders said that asking lawmakers to vote on the first, without the road map provided by the second, was like putting a blindfold on Parliament.
Making matters worse for Labour, Mrs. May promised to resign if her deal passed, leaving future negotiations in a new Conservative leader’s hands. That could very well be a hard-line Brexiteer, and Labour fears that such a leader would cut trading ties with Europe at the risk of hurting Britain’s economy.
“It could be a Boris Johnson Brexit, a Jacob Rees-Mogg Brexit, or a Michael Gove Brexit,” said Keir Starmer, a senior Labour lawmaker, referring to various pro-Brexit Conservatives.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, compared that to playing “roulette with this country’s future.”
Some Labour members proposed an amendment to Mrs. May’s deal that would have given Parliament some say in shaping the political declaration — a way of taking off the figurative blindfold. But the speaker of the House of Commons did not select the amendment for a vote.
Some British news outlets reported on Friday that, in a desperate bid to win the backing of Labour members, the government was offering money to finance projects in their districts.
A security agent checking trucks this month at Coquelles, France, a border inspection post built in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit.CreditPhilippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
ImageA security agent checking trucks this month at Coquelles, France, a border inspection post built in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit.CreditPhilippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Now that lawmakers have rejected it again, and if Britain takes no further action, it would withdraw on April 12 without an agreement — an option wanted by neither the European Union nor most British lawmakers.
Mrs. May could once again ask Brussels for more time. But European leaders have said that they would be open in such a case only to a long extension, possibly of a year or more, to allow for a fundamental rethinking of Britain’s position.
“The European Union have been clear that any further extension will need to have a clear purpose,” she said after the vote, and would require agreement by the heads of government of Britain and the other 27 member nations.
Minutes after Parliament defeated the plan, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, one of the European Union’s governing bodies, announced that, in light of the vote, he was calling a council meeting on April 10.
A long postponement would require Britain to elect representatives to the European Parliament in voting that would take place from May 23 to 26 in all member states. If Britain chose not to take part, it would leave with no deal at 11 p.m. London time on April 12.
Both Labour and Scottish National Party leaders said that Mrs. May should call an early general election. The deadlock in London could force Mrs. May to go that route, and it could also build support for a second referendum.
In addition, Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party, said, “We must now look seriously at the option of revocation” of Article 50, the provision of the Lisbon Treaty that Britain invoked to leave the European Union.
With Mrs. May’s promise to step down, approval of the agreement would have set off a fight among Conservatives to choose a new leader.
Many people in Britain and on the Continent are getting tired of the uncertainty. Among them is Jon Worth, a political consultant who has been making (and remaking) flowcharts to map the potential outcomes of the withdrawal process.
Mr. Worth, who works as a communications consultant for European politicians, has made 27 versions of his Brexit flowcharts, mapping every twist and turn in the political saga.
After a 2-year wait to celebrate ‘Independence Day’ … more waiting
For Brexit supporters, March 29 — the originally scheduled day of Britain’s official departure from the European Union — was supposed to be one big party, with a gala celebration at 11 p.m.
Big Ben, currently silenced by a renovation of the famous London clock tower, was to emerge from the scaffolding to chime Britain out of the European Union, sounding the death knell for 45 years of European integration. A commemorative coin was planned by the Royal Mint.
Either March 29 or June 23, the date of the 2016 referendum to leave the bloc, was supposed to be established as “Independence Day.” But the champagne is still on ice.
“I dearly wish we could be toasting Britain’s freedom with champagne at 11 p.m. on Friday, just as we’d planned,” said Allison Pearson, a columnist for the stridently pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph. “Under the circumstances, half a glass of Tizer and Nurofen is more like it,” she said, referring to a British soft drink and a painkiller.
Asked this month about the fate of the March 29 commemorative coins, the chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said he was unsure whether they had actually been made. If so, he told the BBC, “they will become collectors’ pieces.”
Bookmakers’ odds on probable contenders for prime minister were displayed outside Parliament on Thursday.CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images
ImageBookmakers’ odds on probable contenders for prime minister were displayed outside Parliament on Thursday.CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Who could be the next prime minister?
“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party,” Mrs. May told Conservative lawmakers gathered in a meeting room in Parliament this week, as she announced plans to step aside if her Brexit plan were approved. “I know there is a desire for a new approach, and new leadership, in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.”
After the surprise offer on Wednesday, political analysts were quick to speculate about who might replace her. Her departure, which would not come before the May 22 withdrawal date, would leave the Conservative Party to select a new leader to see the process through.
Candidates for party leadership have to be nominated by two other members of Parliament, though if there is only one candidate, he or she automatically becomes the new leader. If more than two candidates emerge, lawmakers vote among themselves to narrow the field and then put two candidates to a vote by all party members, not just those in Parliament.
There is no obvious front-runner, but British bookmakers are already offering odds on some of the politicians they believe to be probable contenders for the job. They include hard-line Brexit supporters, vocal critics of the prime minister’s approach and supporters of her strategy.