UK PM May hopes to hold fourth vote on Brexit deal
The Commons vote was held on the day when Britain was meant to be leaving the European Union.
A string of leave-supporting Conservative backbenchers who had twice rejected the deal, including Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, switched sides to support the agreement.
The scale of the defeat wasn't quite as bad this time around, but it was a definitive defeat, nonetheless
The result was a sense of stunned disbelief in Westminster. Asked what could happen next, one government source said: “Last one out, turn off the lights.”
May did not spell out explicitly what she planned to do next, saying only that she would press ahead with an “orderly Brexit”.
"Theresa May has lost yet another vote on her withdrawal deal this afternoon. Yes, the scale of the defeat wasn't quite as bad this time around, but it was a definitive defeat, nonetheless," explains Frances Doherty, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and one of the preeminent tech industry lawyers in London.
Doherty has been assisting companies in navigating the complexities of Brexit as it changes almost daily.
"So what is next for the UK? We go back to the strict legal position: that is, if nothing else happens to push us in a different direction, then the UK will leave the EU without a deal on 12 April.
"Indeed, the European Commission's immediate statement after the defeat in the House of Commons was that a no-deal Brexit is now more likely than ever," Doherty says.
"However the bullish language of the past from some quarters – that “no deal is better than a bad deal” seems to be subsiding.
"Parliament continues to be united in its determination that no-deal cannot be contemplated and Mrs May has conceded that there is no time now to even prepare for no deal on 12 April. Polling seems to be suggesting that there has been a significant shift in public opinion away from Brexit," Doherty says.
"On Monday next week the government does not control the order of business. This is because Parliament itself has control and will be running more indicative votes.
"These are the votes that to decide what, if any, alternative route can command support.
"There has been some talk of holding a run-off vote between the plan decided upon by a majority following the indicative votes and Mrs May's withdrawal deal.
"It is very likely that whatever happens, the government will have to go back to the EU to seek a further extension but it is likely that the EU will set very clear conditions around the granting of this extension and there seems no way for the UK to avoid holding European elections in May," Doherty says. ■