Brexit news latest: MPs reject no deal Brexit 'under any circumstance'

Katy Clifton

MPs have voted to ensure the UK cannot crash out of Europe without an agreement in place with Brussels.

A vote to take no deal Brexit off the table 'under any circumstance' was passed by a margin of four votes 24 hours after Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a humiliating second defeat on her Withdrawal Agreement.

MPs supported an amendment to the government's motion tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman by 312 votes to 308. She tried herself to withdraw the amendment hours before voting commenced - but she was blocked from doing so by Speaker John Bercow.

They also voted against an amendment to extend Article 50 until 22 May. The amendment failed by 210 votes.

MPs voted overwhelmingly against leaving the EU without a deal in place (@EmilyThornberry)

More votes will follow on Thursday on whether to authorise Mrs May to request an extension of the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.

Earlier the Chancellor Philip Hammond used his Spring Statement to call on MPs to "put aside our differences and seek a compromise", warning the UK would face "significant disruption" from a no-deal Brexit.

But Brexit Secretary Mr Barclay said he would prefer a no-deal scenario - even though it risks economic harm and threatens to break up the United Kingdom - to the prospect of not leaving the European Union.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Between those very unpleasant choices, I think no Brexit is the bigger risk."

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, standing in for Mrs May in the Commons after she lost her voice, told MPs: "If we do choose to leave without a deal on March 29 there'll be economic, political and constitutional challenges that this country will face.

Theresa May earlier called a surprise cabinet meeting (PA)

"Now we are a great country, we would get through it, we would in due course ensure that this country was more prosperous, freer and successful and, of course, Government has been working hard in order to ensure that we can be prepared for any eventuality and we can mitigate the risks of leaving without a deal."

Meanwhile, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that people who advocated for Brexit has been chasing unicorns for a "very long time".

MPs voted to reject no deal Brexit (PA)

Speaking to the press at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington he said: "As we head into the next few weeks it should be blatantly obvious that unicorns only exist in fairy tales.

"I would say to people who advocated Brexit - is this really what they wanted, protectionism, borders, tariffs, restrictions on trade.

"Is this really what Brexit was all about. And for those who voted against the Withdrawal Agreement on the basis that they feared that Northern Ireland would be treated differently as a result of the backstop, it must be evident to them now that it's the UK Government's intention to treat Northern Ireland differently."

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he still expects Brussels to come up with a new deal, telling LBC Radio: "The horses always change places in the final furlong, it's always at five minutes to midnight that the real deal is done."

He said it is "absurd" for Mrs May to grant a free vote on no-deal because it is a "fundamental" part of the Brexit negotiating strategy.

In preparation for a no-deal outcome, the UK has set out its new tariff schedule, which would force up prices on EU imports including cars and many food products but could reduce costs on goods from elsewhere.

The CBI warned the new tariffs would act as a "sledgehammer" to the economy.

The UK Government will also not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving across the land border into Northern Ireland, raising fears it would potentially create a loophole which could be exploited by smugglers.