Brexit is on course for a lengthy delay after MPs rejected Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement by a margin of 58 votes.
In dramatic scenes in the House of Commons, MPs voted by 344 to 286 against the deal as hundreds of protesters staged a noisy demonstration outside on the day when the UK was due to leave the European Union.
The result of the crunch vote means that the UK has missed an EU deadline to secure an extension of the Brexit process and leave with a deal on May 22.
Mrs May now has until April 12 to go back to Brussels with new proposals and seek a longer extension to the negotiation process, or see the UK leave without a deal that day.
With a clear majority in the Commons against no-deal, and with MPs once more seizing control of the timetable on Monday, Mrs May said that the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”.
This was “almost certain” to involve the UK having to stage elections to the European Parliament in May, she said.
Mrs May said that the outcome was “a matter of profound regret”
European Council president Donald Tusk called an emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels on April 10 to discuss the implications of the vote.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election unless the Prime Minister was willing to find an alternative deal.
And Mrs May – who had promised to step down as Prime Minister if her deal was approved – appeared to hint that this was a possibility, telling MPs: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House.”
She said: “This House has rejected no deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table.
“And today it has rejected approving the Withdrawal Agreement alone and continuing a process on the future.
“This Government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands.”
Mr Corbyn told MPs: “The House has been clear this deal now has to change, there has to be an alternative found.
“And if the Prime Minister can’t accept that then she must go – not at an indeterminate date in the future but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election.”
The deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics, Steve Baker, called on Mrs May to step down immediately.
Declaring that this should be “the final defeat” for the PM’s deal – already rejected by 230 votes in January and 149 in March – Mr Baker said: “I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a Withdrawal Agreement which will be passed by Parliament.”