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British PM's Brexit divorce deal defeated in parliament

Jan '19
British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal was defeated in the House of Commons on Tuesday by a crushing margin, setting off political commotion that reportedly may lead to a disorderly exit from the European Union (EU) or a reversal of the decision to leave. The anticipated defeat was a result of 432 votes against the government and 202 in support.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a vote of no confidence in May's government, to be held at 1900 GMT on January 16. If the government loses, it will have 14 days to overturn the result or face a national election.

More than 100 of the ruling Conservative Party lawmakers—both Brexit backers and supporters of EU membership—joined hands to vote down the deal.

The United Kingdom now faces, as reports indicate, the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how or whether to leave the European project it joined in 1973.

"It is clear that the House does not support this deal, but tonight's vote tells us nothing about what it does support," May told parliament. May's spokesman said May's deal could still form the basis of an accord with the EU, but opponents disagreed, according to British media reports.

"This deal is dead," said Boris Johnson, Conservative Party's most prominent Brexiteer, who urged May to go back to Brussels to seek better terms.

"The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening's vote," said EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, adding that it would intensify preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

According to a Labour Party spokesman, it is more likely that Britain would have to ask the EU to postpone the March 29 departure date required by the Article 50 withdrawal notice.

But EU chairman Donald Tusk suggested Britain should now consider reversing Brexit altogether.

Many of those who oppose Brexit feel May's defeat will lead to another referendum on EU membership, though those who support Brexit say thwarting the opinion of the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit could radicalise much of the electorate, according to a news agency report. (DS)

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