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Brexit vote: Theresa May loses vote, UK plunges into ‘uncharted territory’

A divided United Kingdom on Tuesday night moved into what Prime Minister Theresa May called ‘uncharted territory’ after her controversial withdrawal agreement from European Union was voted down in the House of Commons.

Updated: Jan 16, 2019 06:22:35

By Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London

Brexit deal: Police officers stand outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, in London, Britain, January 15, 2019 (REUTERS)

A divided United Kingdom on Tuesday night moved into what Prime Minister Theresa May called ‘uncharted territory’ after her controversial withdrawal agreement was voted down in the House of Commons, raising questions about her future as well as that of the country.

Parliament voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst parliamentary defeat for a government in recent British history. Scores of her own lawmakers - both Brexiteers and supporters of EU membership - joined forces to vote down the deal.

The immediate fallout will be May returning to parliament by Monday to explain her government’s Plan B to carry forward the Brexit process.

May is also likely to return to Brussels on Wednesday to meet EU leaders to explain the new situation, and seek changes, if possible. Her allies said she is likely to bring the agreement again before parliament with some tweaks in the hope that it will be endorsed by MPs.



Watch: What next for Theresa May if Parliament rejects the Brexit deal

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn moved a motion of no-confidence soon after the result of the vote was known. The motion will be discussed on Wednesday.

With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the United Kingdom is now ensnared in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project that it joined in 1973.

Days of appeals and exhortations by May to support the agreement failed as over 200 MPs participated in the Brexit debate, with many highlighting serious objections mainly to the provision to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Also Read: ‘Humiliated’: British press says PM May ‘crushed’ by Brexit defeat

CROSSROADS

Ever since Britain voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, the political class has been debating how to leave the European project forged by France and Germany after the devastation of World War Two.

While the country is divided over EU membership, most agree that the world’s fifth largest economy is at a crossroads and that its choices over Brexit will shape the prosperity of future generations.

Before the vote, May had warned pro-Brexit lawmakers that if her plan was rejected, it was more likely that Britain would not leave the EU at all than that it would leave without a deal.

She has also warned fellow Conservatives not to let the opposition Labour Party seize control of Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, hoping to force an election, is expected to call a parliamentary vote of no confidence in May’s government.

Supporters of EU membership cast Brexit as a gigantic mistake that will undermine the West, smash Britain’s reputation as a stable destination for investment and slowly weaken London’s position as a global capital.

Many opponents of Brexit hope May’s defeat will ultimately lead to another referendum on EU membership, though Brexiteers say that thwarting the will of the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit could radicalise much of the electorate.

Brexit supporters cast leaving as a way to break free from a Union they see as overly bureaucratic and fast falling behind the leading economic powers of the 21st century, the United States and China.

(With agency inputs)

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