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May's Brexit agreement suffers record Commons defeat

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May's Brexit agreement suffers record Commons defeat

Mrs Theresa May

(LONDON) - Prime minister Theresa May faces a no confidence vote Wednesday as she suffered the biggest ever defeat by a sitting government with MPs rejecting her EU withdrawal agreement by a record 432 votes to 202.

Tabling the no confidence vote, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pointed out that the government had made little effort to build consensus: "she is the author of this catastrophic defeat," he said.

Reacting to "the largest defeat for a government since the 1920s," he said the verdict was "absolutely decisive", after two years of negotiations, and demanded that "'no deal' must be taken off the table, a permanent customs union must be secured, and people's rights and protections must be guaranteed."

If Mrs May loses the confidence vote, there could be a general election. Is she wins, she has signalled her intention to hold meetings with parties in a "constructive spirit", and continue to "deliver on the "instruction of the British people" - despite the overwhelming vote against her current plan. She said she would present possible ways forward on Monday.

Whether she will be allowed to return to Brussels to seek major changes to the withdrawal agreement is debatable, given that there is little consensus in the British parliament on any way forward.

The chances of a new referendum vote look to have risen considerably. The 'People's Vote' campaign believes the momentum has swung in their favour. "Our chances of making the People's Vote happen are now greater than ever before," said the leading supporter of the 'People's Vote' campaign Anna Soubry MP. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, speaking to BBC News, said it was the "beginning of the end for Brexit".

From the EU side, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker voiced regret at the outcome of the House of Commons vote, while at the same time vowing to continue the process of ratification of the withdrawal agreement.

"The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening's vote," he said. The Commission would continue to contingency work "to help ensure the EU is fully prepared," he added, urging the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. "Time is almost up," he said.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier said the EU would await the UK's next move. He said the EU would "remain united and determined to reach an agreement."

The EU Council president tweeted the question: "If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?"

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