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British MPs vote to take no-deal Brexit off the table

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British MPs vote to take no-deal Brexit off the table
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UK MPs rejected a no-deal Brexit in a series of close-call votes on Wednesday evening.

An amendment seeking to take a no-deal Brexit entirely off the table was passed by 312 votes to 308 and was passed again in a vote on an amended motion with 321 to 278.

This result showed MPs were more open to seeing the UK crash out of the EU without a deal than they were to accepting the current deal negotiated by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

MPs voted on Tuesday to reject May's deal for a second time by 391 to 242.

The pound soared to a two-week high against the dollar after Wednesday's vote.

In response to the result, May said that despite the result, legalities had not changed.

The UK will leave the EU without a deal, “unless something else is agreed,” she said.

Confirming she would table a motion for Thursday’s vote on extending Article 50, May warned that such an extension, if agreed by the EU, would need to be a short-term, technical solution and that MPs would need to accept a deal.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier echoed this in an exclusive interview with Euronews earlier on Wednesday, saying Brussels will immediately ask "why" if London requests an extension.

A lack of agreement would lead to the UK seeking a lengthy extension, May added, and would mean the UK participates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.

In the hours leading up to the vote, it was unclear whether the no-deal amendment would even be moved to a vote after Conservative MP Caroline Spelman, who tabled it in the first place, said she wanted to withdraw it.

However, Spelman was just one of several signatories, and her request to withdraw was rejected.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper eventually moved the amendment.

The vote on the "Malthouse compromise" was also rejected with 376 to 164.

What next?

MPs are set to vote again on Thursday over a possible extension to Article 50.

Specifically, the government motion gives MPs a deadline of next Wednesday to agree on a Brexit deal. Should a deal be agreed, May would seek a technical extension until June 30.

However, if a deal is not agreed by next week, May will seek a lengthier extension, meaning the UK would need to take part in the European Parliament elections.

The debate

Environment Secretary Michael Gove stood in place of May to open the four-hour debate, due to May’s ongoing sore throat.

After several words wishing May a speedy recovery, Gove turned to spark a fiery start to the debate, saying the vote on the government’s motion would not take a no-deal scenario off the table.

It would indicate whether MPs believe the UK should or should not leave the EU without a deal, but would not rule it out completely, he said.

He echoed May's earlier speech at PMQs in which she said there were only two ways to ensure a no-deal did not happen: accept a deal or revoke Article 50.

Gove's comments were met with strong criticisms from Anna Soubry, a former Conservative MP now sitting with the Independent Group, who said the “cat is now out of the bag.”

She blasted a “shameful carry on” from those who were encouraging others to reject the Spelman amendment that would rule out a no-deal scenario, saying MPs were once promised they could vote against no-deal but were now being denied such a chance.

In response, Gove commented that he knew his fellow MP was a “distinguished barrister,” and that he now also understood why lawyers were paid by the hour.

A furious Soubry hit back, maintaining she wasn’t paid by the hour, and, in fact, had repeatedly taken on pro bono (free cases) cases in her career. Rising to her feet and pointing to Gove, she added, “because of HIS cuts.”

Sobering comments were later delivered by Brexit Shadow Secretary Keir Starmer, who said the government had reached “a hopeless end.”

“No deal should never have been an option,” he said, adding, “I hope we can bury it so deep that it never resurfaces.”

READ MORE: What amendments will MPs be debating ahead of the no-deal vote?

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