LONDON (Reuters) – British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin on Tuesday, triggering political upheaval that could lead to a disorderly exit from the EU or even to a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave.
Parliament voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst parliamentary defeat for a government in recent British history. Scores of her own MPs – both Brexiteers and supporters of EU membership – joined forces to vote down the deal.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promptly called a vote of no confidence in May’s government, to be held within 24 hours.
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.
May’s crushing loss, the first British parliamentary defeat of a treaty since 1864, marks the collapse of her two-year strategy of forging an amicable divorce with close ties to the EU after the March 29 exit.
“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, moments after the result was announced.
“We need to confirm whether this government still enjoys the confidence of this House,” May said.
May said parliament had spoken and the government had listened. The small Northern Irish DUP party, which props up her minority government and had said it would oppose the deal, said it would still back May in the no confidence vote.
The EU said the Brexit deal remained the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal from the EU.