Theresa May has signalled a third “meaningful vote” on her EU Withdrawal Agreement could be held after MPs voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister’s deal could be put to a vote again next week, despite being rejected twice already, after her authority was shredded by a major Cabinet rebellion and another crushing Commons defeat on Wednesday.
A Government motion for debate on Thursday offers to seek a one-off extension delaying Brexit until June 30 if MPs approve the deal negotiated with the EU by next Wednesday.
But Mrs May warned if the deal is not approved, a longer extension will be needed, requiring Britain to take part in the European Parliament elections in May.
“I do not think that would be the right outcome,” the Prime Minister said. “But the House needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs Mrs May had repeatedly offered a choice between her deal and no deal, adding: “In the last 24 hours, Parliament has decisively rejected both.”
Mr Corbyn said: “Parliament must now take control of the situation.
“Myself, the shadow Brexit secretary and others will have meetings with members across the House to find a compromise solution that can command support in the House.”
After the 149-vote rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday, Mrs May suffered a second defeat in as many days when MPs backed a cross-party amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.
The Commons voted 312 to 308 – a majority of four – in favour of the proposal tabled by former Conservative chairman Dame Caroline Spelman.
The vote was later confirmed by a more emphatic 321 votes to 278, overriding a Government motion from Mrs May that would have rejected no-deal on the scheduled date of March 29 but left it on the table for other times.
Work and Pensions Minister Sarah Newton quit after defying the whips to vote for the cross-party proposal.
Four Cabinet ministers – David Mundell, Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark – and Claire Perry, who attends Cabinet, did not vote on the motion.
Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell said: “I’ve always opposed a no-deal Brexit. The House made its view clear by agreeing the Spelman amendment, I didn’t think it was right for me to oppose that.
“The PM has my full support in her objective of leaving the EU with a deal to deliver an orderly Brexit.”
Also not voting on the amended motion were ministers Robert Buckland, Alistair Burt, Tobias Ellwood, Stephen Hammond, Richard Harrington, Margot James and Anne Milton, as well as Government whip Mike Freer.
Health minister Mr Hammond said the Government whips “asked me to vote against the motion, as amended, to reject no-deal” but “I could not do this as I regard no-deal as a disaster”.
“Therefore I abstained, despite being a Government minister,” he added.
A Cabinet source said that, with a significant number of ministers indicating that they were not prepared to vote against the Spelman plan, it was made clear that they would not be required to.
Speaking moments after the vote, Mrs May accepted there was a “clear majority” against no-deal in the Commons.
But she was greeted by angry barracking by opposition MPs as she insisted no-deal remains the default option in UK and EU law, however, unless a Withdrawal Agreement is reached.
The Government motion tabled for debate on Thursday states that if MPs back the negotiated Agreement within the next seven days, the Prime Minister will seek a one-off extension to June 30 to pass necessary legislation.
It adds if no agreement has been approved by the time of the European Council on March 21, “it is highly likely the European Council … would require a clear purpose for any extension, not least to determine its length, and any extension beyond June 30 2019 would require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019”.
The motion sparked fury among MPs, who accused the Government of seeking to ignore the views of the Commons.
Additional reporting by PA