On the day that Britain was originally scheduled to leave the European Union, lawmakers continued their impasse, voting down Prime Minister Theresa May’s stripped-down withdrawal agreement for the third time.
The House of Commons voted 334 to 286 against the Brexit deal, triggering the possibility of the so-called “no deal” divorce between the United Kingdom and the EU. Now lawmakers have until April 12 to announce a new plan or leave the EU without a deal – a massive risk for disruption for people and businesses.
May said the implications of the lawmaker’s rejection to the deal are “grave” and that it should be a “matter of profound regret” that “once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union in an orderly fashion.”
Immediately following the latest defeat, Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called on May to resign immediately, asking whether she now “finally accepts” that MPs will not support her deal.
The Sterling fell through the $1.30 mark against the U.S. dollar, for the first time since March 11th, as the result of the vote was announced..
Parliament voted on the 585-page withdrawal agreement that sets out the terms of Britain’s departure – including its financial settlement with the EU and the rights of EU and U.K. citizens – but not a shorter declaration on future tires that is also part of the divorce deal agreed between the U.K. and the European bloc late last year.
Its removal altered the deal enough to overcome a ban against asking lawmakers the same question over and over again.
May’s deal, agreed with the European bloc in November, was previously rejected by 230 votes on Jan. 15 and by 149 votes on March 12. Ahead of Friday’s vote, May needed at least 75 lawmakers to change over, while losing none.
The EU reacted to Friday’s defeat saying it “regrets the negative vote” and that it is now fully prepared to a “no-deal” scenario on April 12.
“The EU will remain united,” a spokesperson said.
Donald Tusk, the European council president, called an emergency EU summit for April 10 in light of the vote. That is two days before the deadline for the U.K.’s departure.
Solicitor General Robert Buckland told the BBC that “we are now in completely uncharted waters”.
“The prospect of no Brexit is now becoming very real indeed,” he said.
Outside the House of Parliament, pro-Brexit protesters brought traffic to a halt by blocking roads, local media reported. They chanted “We shall not be moved” and “Leave means leave.”
The EU had confirmed Friday that a U.K. Parliament vote to pass the withdrawal agreement alone would be “necessary and sufficient” to secure Britain’s orderly departure on May 22.
Ahead of Friday, May needed the support of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which has refused to back the agreement because it treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K. The small party has 10 seats in the House of Commons and some Brexit backers say they will take their cue from the DUP.
In a last-ditch effort to sway remaining naysayers, May pledged Wednesday to quit if lawmakers approved the deal and let Britain leave the EU in May.
“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party,” she said at the time. “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.”
Earlier Friday, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox urged divided legislators to support the deal and finally break an impasse that has left Britons uncertain when, or even if, the country will leave the EU.
Cox said Parliament should take “a single decisive step … to afford certainty to the millions of people who are waiting for it.”
Some previously resistant Brexit-backers have moved to support the deal. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — a likely contender to replace May as Conservative Party leader — tweeted that rejecting it risked “being forced to accept an even worse version of Brexit or losing Brexit altogether.”
Two years ago, Britain triggered a two-year countdown to Brexit, with the departure date set for March 29, 2019. Lawmakers were granted an extension by the EU last week amid their impasse.
The uncertainty around Brexit, the United Kingdom’s most significant political and economic move since World War Two, has left allies and investors aghast.
The EU had indicated it could grant Britain a longer delay to Brexit if it plans to change course and tack toward a softer departure. That would, however, require the U.K. to participate in elections for the European Parliament in late May.
Before the vote, a group of breakaway Tory and Labour MPs applied to become an official political party called “Change UK” – just in time for the European elections. They have named former Conservative MP Heidi Allen as interim leader.
The petitions site Change.org said Friday it’s seeking urgent legal advice to prevent the group using similar branding.
“This new party is using the language of Change.org. Our movement is one of 17 million people across the UK and we can’t allow ourselves to be hijacked in this way,” a company source said.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and the Associated Press contributed to this report.