Brexit: British MPs vote to avoid leaving the EU with no deal

The vote took place the day after the UK parliament rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal for a second time

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Parliament, following the vote on Brexit in London, Britain, March 13, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. Reuters TV via REUTERS?     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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British MPs voted on Wednesday to avoid leaving the EU without a divorce deal.

Parliamentarians backed an amendment originally put forward by backbencher Caroline Spelman to take a no-deal Brexit off the table by a narrow majority of four votes.

The amendment is a tougher no-deal stance than a motion put forward by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, which said the UK would not leave the EU without a deal until March 29.

But it is not legally binding and the government has not committed to accepting it.

Mrs May told the House of Commons that no-deal remained the default option if a deal was not reached.

She said a vote on extending the deadline for Article 50, the mechanism behind Britain's departure from the EU, would be held on Thursday.

Mrs May had ordered her Conservative MPs not to support the Spelman amendment, meaning the vote was another embarrassing defeat for her government.

The vote came a day after her Brexit deal was defeated for a second time in parliament, by a majority of 149.

A compromise amendment, which would have meant a "managed no-deal" after an extension to May 22, was rejected by MPs 374 to 164. In a second vote, MPs ruled out a no-deal Brexit by a majority of 43.

After the crushing government defeat, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said Parliament must take control of the process.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would work across the aisle to achieve a compromise.

"Let us find a solution to deal with the crisis facing this country and the deep concerns it faces," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Chancellor Philip Hammond said that Britain leaving the EU would be damaging for the economy and the country’s "standing and reputation in the world".

The government has promised to allow MPs the choice of seeking a delay to the March 29 departure date and allow further talks with the EU. The vote is due to take place on Thursday.

But the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Wednesday that Brussels would need to know why London wanted to extend the talks and it was the UK's responsibility to find a way out of the impasse.

He said the withdrawal agreement was the only treaty on the table for the UK to leave the EU with a deal.

If MPs vote to extend Article 50, all 27 EU member states would have to agree to the delay.

Meanwhile, Treasury Minister Liz Truss said she believed Mrs May’s divorce deal could still pass in parliament at a later date.

"I think it is still alive, I do," Ms Truss told the BBC.

"Ultimately, when you look at the alternatives – which are a Customs union, no Brexit or no-deal – Theresa May's deal is more attractive than those other three options.

"I think that's the conclusion MPs will ultimately come to."

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would rule on whether Mrs May could bring back her deal to be voted on a third time.

Mr Bercow said “a ruling would be made” on whether to bar the government from bringing back the same motion to the House again.