The UK will ask the European Union to delay Brexit after parliament voted by a majority of 210 to seek an extension to the withdrawal process.
On a third consecutive night of drama in Westminster, MPs voted 412 to 202 to ask for more time to resolve the crisis that has bitterly divided the country’s political class and gravely undermined Theresa May’s government.
Only 112 Tory MPs voted to delay Brexit, with 188 voting against. The delay only got through the Commons on Labour votes.
Eight cabinet ministers voted against the government's motion, including Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary who had spoken in favour of it at the despatch box as he closed the debate for the government.
He was joined in the Noe lobby by fellow cabinet ministers Penny Mordaunt, Gavin Williamson, Liz Truss, Liam Fox, Alun Cairns, Chris Grayling, and Andrea Leadsom.
Julian Smith, the government chief whip, abstained on the government's motion, while Michael Gove, the former chair of Vote Leave, and David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, voted to delay Brexit.
In a rare win for the prime minister, an attempt by a cross-bench group of MPs led by Labour's Hilary Benn to wrest control of the Brexit process from the government was defeated by just two votes.
Nonetheless, the knife-edge vote, which broke 314 to 312, will serve as a warning to Brexiteer rebels that if they vote down the deal at the third meaningful vote next week, parliament will again attempt to force the government's hand on the UK's Brexit policy.
Tory MP Caroline Spelman, whose name was on the amendment, did not vote for it. If she had it would have been a tie and speaker John Bercow would have had the casting vote.
David Lidington, May's de facto deputy, told the Commons on Thursday afternoon that if the deal is rejected again and Brexit faces a long delay, then the government would allow a series of indicative votes to forge a new, potentially softer Brexit plan.
The length of the delay is uncertain. The government is set to request a short “technical” extension to June 30 if May’s withdrawal agreement is approved by MPs before March 29, having already been rejected twice by crushing margins.
If there is no deal agreed by then, however, the UK could face a longer delay.
Earlier on Thursday night, an amendment aimed at extending the departure date to hold a second public vote, put forward by the Independent Group MP Sarah Wollaston, was heavily defeated. Only 85 MPs backed a public vote, with 334 voting against.
Labour MPs abstained en masse after the party decided that there was no chance of securing another referendum at this time.
Jeremy Corbyn faced a decision over whether to sack four of his frontbenchers after they defied the Labour whip to oppose a second public vote. Justin Madders, Yvonne Fovargue, Emma Lewell Buck, and Steph Peacock were the shadow frontbenchers to break the whip.
Ruth Smeeth, the private parliamentary secretary to Tom Watson, resigned to vote against a second referendum.
As pro-second referendum campaigners split on their strategy once again, even the official People's Vote campaign did not support the Wollaston amendment. "We do not think today is the right time to test the will of the House on the case for a new public vote," they said.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said that despite the votes of the past two days, the government was still preparing for a no-deal exit.
They added that a short technical extension would not necessarily mean that the UK would leave on June 30, but that the exit date could be any time before then, and said that any extension to Article 50 would cut into the UK's transition period after leaving the EU.
The spokesperson said that the government was still not preparing for European elections, which the UK would be required to take part in if the agreed extension went beyond the end of June.
Any extension has to be unanimously agreed by the other 27 EU member states and there is no guarantee that they will agree, regardless of the Commons’ vote on Thursday.
A European Commission spokesperson said: "We take note of tonight’s votes. A request for an extension of Article 50 requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 Member States.
"It will be for the European Council (Article 50) to consider such a request, giving priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension. President Juncker is in constant contact with all leaders."
On Tuesday, Parliament voted down her withdrawal agreement for a second time, this time by a margin of 149. The next night, a majority of MPs indicated that they are opposed to the UK leaving without a deal under any circumstances, although no-deal remains the default legal position unless MPs pass an alternative by March 29.
Alex Spence is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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