The British government is considering its next moves on Brexit after the parliament speaker derailed its plans for a third vote on the EU withdrawal deal.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said Theresa May's Brexit deal could not be voted on again, unless a different proposal was submitted. The deal has already been heavily defeated twice.
The UK prime minister had been hoping to garner enough support among MPs to hold a vote this week ahead of a European Council summit of EU leaders. The outcome would likely determine the length of a delay to Brexit the government is due to seek from the EU.
Bercow said the government could bring forward a new proposition, that is not the same as the previous one, and suggested it is likely to need EU approval to be able to put it to a further vote in parliament.
"This is my conclusion: if the government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same, nor substantially the same as that disposed of by the house on the 12th of March, this would be entirely in order," Bercow said.
"What the government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House (of Commons) the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by 149 votes."
Britain's Brexit Minister Steve Barclay said on Tuesday that the divorce deal would probably not be put to a vote in parliament this week, and there would have to be a short delay to the Brexit process. The next steps are due to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting.
May's Brexit deal was defeated last week for a second time after MPs voted it down and voted in favour of extending Article 50.
The speaker's ruling has been welcomed by some politicians on both sides of the Brexit divide. "Leavers" see a chance for the UK to quit the EU without a deal, leading to their preferred option of a harder Brexit. "Remainers" believe the death of the deal could bring a longer extension to the Brexit process – leading perhaps to a complete rethink and a second referendum.
However, others are furious at being denied the chance to vote a third time, arguing that circumstances have changed.
Conservative MP James Cleverly said if Bercow had made the ruling earlier, ministers may have realised it was their last chance to vote for the Brexit deal and may have voted differently last week.
In response, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesperson said it is not in a place to discuss the motion and timing of another Brexit vote and that the government was not forewarned about Bercow's statement.
Bercow also said MPs could vote to change Commons rule in order to avoid repeat votes on the same motion in future — the house is the custodian of its own standing orders, he added.
Later in the Commons, British junior Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he believed there was still a chance parliament could approve May's Brexit deal this week.
EU watching nervously
The Prime Minister had said if parliament approved her Brexit deal by Wednesday, she would request a three-month delay to the scheduled March 29 departure date. If the deal is not passed, it's thought an extension may have to be longer.
EU ministers are meeting in Brussels to prepare for the summit later in the week. They are expected to discuss whether to agree on a delay to Brexit, and if so for how long.
Some leaders have said the UK would have to demonstrate a clear purpose for an extension – and are nervous about the implications of a long duration.
With elections for the European Parliament due to take place in late May, the UK has already been told that it would need to field candidates in the event of anything beyond a short Brexit delay.