MPs voted outright to reject a no-deal Brexit, paving the way for a vote on whether Theresa May will ask the EU to agree a delay to Brexit.
The vote, which passed by 312 to 308 is non-binding on the government. It came in the form of an amendment to a government motion which, while also rejecting a no-deal exit on March 29 — the current legal date of departure — had nevertheless noted that leaving without a deal remains the legal default.
The amendment, put forward by Conservative MP Caroline Spelman, removed this acknowledgement that no deal remains the legal default, in an apparent bid to remove any ambiguity about the government’s intentions.
Prior to the vote May had pledged that, if the government’s motion passed, she would put forward a further motion on extending the Article 50 negotiating period, to be voted on Thursday.
It is not clear yet whether the pledge still applies now that the amendment, rather than the main motion, has passed, but May would face a serious political backlash from many Conservatives in government who want to see an extension, if she were to backpedal.
To give MPs’ rejection of no deal legal force, May must formally request an extension from the EU27, who must reach a unanimous decision on whether or not they will grant it.
Spelman herself did not ultimately vote for her own amendment, saying that she wanted to see a large vote for the government’s motion to reject no deal, rather than a smaller majority for her amendment.