British PM Theresa May loses key vote on Brexit procedure in parliament

British PM Theresa May loses key vote on Brexit procedure in parliament

After a two week Christmas recess, United Kingdom parliamentarians resumed hostilities on Brexit, with 20 Conservative MPs joining forces with the opposition Labour party and supporting an amendment to the May government's Finance Bill demanding that a "no deal" Brexit be ruled out.

With the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit rising, the European Union is looking at how Brexit might be postponed, and pro-EU campaigners are testing ways Britain could hold another referendum after voters narrowly backed leaving in 2016.

May's government suffered a defeat in parliament on Tuesday when lawmakers who oppose leaving without a deal won a vote on creating a new obstacle to a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal Brexit could happen if ministers vote down May's deal on 15 January.

"This solidifies and emphasizes the key role of Parliament", said Tory MP Dominic Grieve, who spearheaded Wednesday's motion.

The vote marked the second embarrassing Brexit defeat for Mrs May in the space of 24 hours.

The contentious amendment was passed by 308 votes in favour to 297 against, a day after MPs delivered another blow to Prime Minister Theresa May by voting to scupper a no-deal Brexit. Lawmakers would have the power to amend that plan.

Mr Grieve had tabled the amendment Tuesday night after pro-EU MPs had passed an amendment to the Finance Bill created to prohibit spending on No Deal preparations without authorisation from Parliament - which is dominated by Remainers and largely opposed to No Deal. May had been hoping to have up to 28 days to come up with a new agreement or an alternative Brexit plan if her deal is voted down.

Earlier there were furious scenes in the chamber as other Tory MPs angrily accused Speaker John Bercow of flouting Commons rules in allowing the vote to go ahead.

The government needs 318 votes to get a deal through parliament as seven Sinn Fein lawmakers do not sit, four speakers and deputy speaker do not vote and the four tellers are not counted.

May pulled a vote on the deal last month, admitting it would be defeated, and promised to seek "legal and political assurances" from the EU.

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In a sign that the party has not been swayed by the government's promise to give the Northern Ireland Assembly a veto over any new European Union regulations introduced under the terms of the proposed backstop arrangement, she accused Mrs May of "wasting time". But the bloc refuses to reopen the agreement, and opposition to the negotiated deal remains strong among British lawmakers.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said that "not one single dot or comma has changed" since December's aborted vote.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, foreground, speaks, during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Jan. 9, 2019.

"I don't think that was really the effort". And there is no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternate course.

The Government later accepted proposals which would give the House of Commons the power to reject both an extension to the Brexit transition period and the introduction of a backstop if no wider trade deal is secured by the end of 2020.

While a majority of MPs may vote to take a "no deal" Brexit off the table, that would not legally oblige Mrs May's government to do so.

Manfred Weber, a German conservative who heads the biggest group in the European Parliament, said in Berlin Wednesday that "it's Britain's move".

News agency dpa reported that Weber said everyone must realize that a no-deal withdrawal on March 29 would "lead to very hard, perhaps even chaotic situations".

The EU has ruled out even meeting with UK Brexit negotiators to talk about any changes to the agreement. "There won't be any meeting as such, because negotiations have been completed", a spokesperson for the EU told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

He said the choice was between May's deal, no deal or "to reverse the 2016 referendum entirely".