British MPs reject Brexit deal; delay or no-deal now the only options
On Tuesday the British House of Commons again rejected the Brexit agreement made by British Prime Minister Theressa May and the EU with an overwhelming majority. This means a postponement or a withdrawal with no agreement is the only remaining options. "I regret the outcome of tonight's Brexit vote", Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter.
The adjusted Brexit deal, which included guarantees that the so-called Irish backstop will not be a permanent measure, received 242 votes in favor and 391 votes against, NU.nl reports. In her first reaction to yet another major defeat, May said that the House of Commons will vote on Wednesday about whether the United Kingdom will leave the European Union with no deal in place. For the Conservative Party parliamentarians, that vote will not go along party lines, May said. They will vote according to their own conscience.
"It is disappointing that the UK government has been unable to ensure a majority for the withdrawal agreement agreed by both parties in November, even after multiple additional assurances from the EU. A solution must come from London", Dutch Prime Minister Rutte said on Twitter. "The EU continues to stand by the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, which serves to prevent a hard border in Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market unless and until alternative arrangements can be found. With only 17 days left until March 29th, the Dutch government will keep working tirelessly to make sure the damage for NL and Dutch citizens living and working in the UK is minimized in the now more likely case of a no deal."
Just like when the previous agreement was shot down, EU negotiator Michel Barnier responded that the solution to the "deadlock can only be broken in the UK". According to Barnier, the EU "has done everything it can to get the withdrawal agreement over the threshold". EU President Donald Tusk is also disappointed "that the British government has failed to reach a majority for the withdrawal agreement". The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs said that he regrets the outcome, but added that the "process in London should be patiently awaited".
After the vote, May again emphasized that the EU is no longer willing to renegotiate the agreement already reached. When the adapted deal was presented on Monday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We give the agreement a second chance. There will be no third chance. There will be no new negotiations. This is it." There are therefore no plans to restart negotiations with the EU.
At 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Dutch time, the House of Commons will vote on a no-deal Brexit. The expectation is that this will not get a majority, according to NU.nl. If that is the case, there will be another vote on Thursday to determine whether the Brexit should be postponed.
If a postponement is chosen, the leaders of the other 27 EU member states must give their consent. They have already indicated that they want to prevent a hard Brexit. Though Prime Minister Rutte repeatedly stressed that the UK will have to make clear what they want to do with the extra time. "If the UK ask for delay, the EU will ask what do you want with it? We don't want to go round in circles for the next couple of months. What will be achieved by it?" he said to the BBC last month. On Tuesday he said that if the UK gives a "credible and convincing justification", the EU will consider the request and decide by unanimity. "The smooth functioning of the EU institutions needs to be ensured."