Members of Parliament will later today vote on whether to block the UK from leaving the European Union without a deal in place on 29th March – after they rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement last night.
The updated agreement was defeated in the House of Commons by 149 votes – 242 for the PM’s deal, and 391 against.
The UK government have stated that they will cut tariffs on a wide range of imports from outside the European Union, and will introduce measures to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northen Ireland.
Following her defeat, Theresa May stated: “I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight. I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available.
“Two weeks ago, I made a series of commitments from this despatch box regarding the steps we would take in the event that this House rejected the deal on offer. I stand by those commitments in full.
“Therefore, tonight we will table a motion for debate tomorrow to test whether the House supports leaving the European Union without a deal on 29 March.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, reacted to the news. She said: “Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it. Extending Article 50 to close the door on a March no-deal is now urgent. It should be as short as realistically possible and backed by a clear plan.
“Conservatives must consign their red lines to history, while Labour must come to the table with a genuine commitment to solutions. It’s time for Parliament to stop this circus.”
John Perry, managing director of supply chain and logistics consultancy SCALA, commented:
“Given that the Brexit referendum was only advisory, not in any way binding, there have really always been four potential outcomes open to us: leave with no deal, leave with Theresa May’s deal, leave the EU but remain in the customs union, and remain.
“While they may trade with other countries around the world, most businesses I speak to agree that their most valuable trade is carried out within the EU, which is now in jeopardy. As a result, of those four potential outcomes, the vast majority of businesses would have opted to remain, or leave but remain in the customs union, at a push.
“However, as soon as the result of the referendum was revealed, the government completely disregarded those two outcomes, and we have been nonsensically stuck between no-deal or May’s deal ever since.
“Now that May’s deal has been emphatically voted down by MPs, we have disastrously edged one step closer to a no-deal Brexit. Despite the second vote on whether to block a no-deal Brexit taking place later today, this will still be the default on the 29th March unless May can manage to get the other EU member states to agree to an extension in time.
“An extension would undoubtedly be by far the best outcome now for British businesses. Delaying the deadline until at least the summer would give us the chance to come together to campaign for either a second referendum in which the options are properly laid out, or at the very least to stay in the customs union.
“However, even if we still face a no-deal Brexit following a delay, the additional few months would have given businesses an invaluable opportunity to prepare themselves as thoroughly as possible. An extension would allow businesses to look beyond stockpiling and put in place more effective, long-term risk-reduction strategies by undertaking a full assessment of their supply chains, protecting themselves against the uncertainty that lies ahead.”