After returning to Westminster having secured new conditions from the EU, Theresa May may have felt like the tide was finally changing on a Brexit deal that has seemed doomed to fail since the very start.
The victory was shortlived, however, with Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox assessing the “legally binding agreement” preventing the UK from being locked into the backstop agreement as not being watertight.
“That effectively meant this had no chance of passing,” Craig Erlam, senior analyst at forex broker OANDA, told Trading Day.
“Ultimately it means that the UK can be trapped in a backstop agreement with the EU – where it is accepting its rules without having any say in them for an indefinite period of time – and as long as that remains the case it’s difficult to see how the House is going to vote in favour of such a scenario,” he explained.
The deal was voted down by 391 to 242, a margin of 149 votes.
“I profoundly regret the decision this House has taken tonight. I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in an orderly fashion with a deal and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available,” Theresa May said in a speech following the vote.
Despite the loss, it still demonstrates an improvement on when the original deal was voted in Parliament when it was shot down by a margin of 230 votes – the largest loss for a modern British government.
Parliament will now consider whether it can endorse a no-deal Brexit that would see it leave the EU without any formal arrangement in place.
If that is rejected, the EU will likely vote at the end of the week in favour of extending the Brexit deadline, although European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has ruled out making any more changes to the deal itself.
If no agreement can be found that is palatable to both, a second referendum could take place with Britons able to vote on whether they still wish to leave.
The original referendum ‘Leave’ result was delivered in mid-2016, backed by a slim majority of 51.89 per cent.
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