British PM Theresa May faces confidence vote after Brexit defeat

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British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal by an overwhelming margin Tuesday, sparking political chaos that could lead to a chaotic exit from the European Union, a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave - and even May's departure from office.

And the result of the critical vote wasn't even particularly close.

Tuesday's vote in the UK's House of Commons was supposed to finally provide some clarity on Brexit.

Despite May entering the records books as suffering the worse defeat ever in Britain's House of Commons, her MPs will rally around her to avoid a collapse of the government, with the prospect of Labour taking over.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the House of Commons that Mrs May's "catastrophic" defeat represented an "absolutely decisive" verdict on her Brexit negotiations and said he has tabled a vote of confidence.

The Labour leader said May had wasted two years with her "doomed strategy" and that any prime minister who loses such an important vote should step down.

The prime minister called on members to act quickly to make Brexit work. It is clear that the house does not support this deal but tonight's vote tells us nothing what it does support.

"The House has put its confidence in this government", she said. May also accused Corbyn of tolerating anti-semitism in the Labour Party. "At every turn the prime minister has closed the door on dialogue", Corbyn said.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the ruling Christian Democrat Union party, echoed this view.

Media captionTheresa May beats off a challenge from Jeremy Corbyn to bring down her government by 325 to 306 votes.

"Momentum is shifting away from the harder Brexit route and towards a number of options ranging from postponement and second referendum".

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One commentator in The Times described her as a "zombie prime minister".

The humiliating rebuff was delivered in the House of Commons just moments after the Prime Minister made a last-ditch appeal for MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement which she sealed with Brussels in November after nearly two years of negotiation.

Before the vote, Sky News analysis suggested she would fall far short, with 224 having been expected to turn against her deal.

Mr Boles is part of a group of Tory and Labour MPs who are pushing for a Norway-style soft Brexit which would keep the United Kingdom tied to the EU customs union and single market. So far, May has refused publicly to speculate on a possible "Plan B". And the bloc's highest court has ruled that it is OK for the U.K.to unilaterally reverse its decision to leave.

May said a second referendum on Brexit was not an option and that there was "no indication" that a new vote would solve the crisis faced by the country. "It would be completely extraordinary. But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need". "That is an extraordinary thing for a democracy to do".

A No.10 spokesman said: "We are prepared to talk to anyone who can work constructively".

The pound rebounded from earlier losses on news of the plan for cross-party discussions.

The most contentious section of the deal was an insurance policy known as the "backstop" created to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

But he also warned that the ratification of the withdrawal agreement is a precondition to creating mutual trust ahead of negotiating the future EU-UK trade deal.

On Monday, May and her counterparts in the European Union sought to assuage some of these concerns. Tusk tweeted after the vote.

"Were the backstop to enter into force in whole or in part, it is meant to apply only temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement", Tusk and Juncker added, pledging the "necessary political impetus and resources" to quickly reach that more permanent agreement. "This Frankenstein deal is now officially dead". Only time will tell what will replace them - and that window of time, as British lawmakers well know, is quickly closing.

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