British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence motion in the House of Commons by a narrow margin of 19, with her Conservative Party MPs closing ranks after parliament turned down her Brexit deal by a wider margin, that imperiled both her leadership and Britain's departure from the European Union.
The motion tabled by Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was voted out by 325 to 302, after a five-hour debate on Wednesday, during which Corbyn accused May’s “zombie” government of failing the country and turning a deal that had been touted as “the easiest in history” into a “national embarrassment.”
Theresa May said again in Parliament on Wednesday that she would not support a second referendum, even as the rift among British political classes that has turned the society into warring factions of `Stayers’ and `Leavers’ widened.
May must now present lawmakers with a `Plan B’ for exiting the 28-member union even as the European Union insists that the Brexit deal is non-negotiable. The Parliament is to meet on Monday.
In Brussels, European diplomats said that the onus of failure of the Brexit deal was on British lawmakers as they failed to come up with a proposal - any proposal - that could win a majority in Westminster. At the same time, European leaders expressed fear that Britain could crash out of EU on 29 March with no safety nets in place.
Labour leaders, however, insist that May must first rule out a "no-deal" Brexit, which they say would wreak havoc on British workers.
"Before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward, the government must remove, clearly and once and for all, the prospect of the catastrophe of no-deal and all the chaos that would come as a result of that," Corbyn said.
Leaders of the Scottish National Party said that avoiding a no-deal Brexit, extending the deadline for leaving the European Union, and consideration of a second Brexit referendum "have to be on the table" as options.
While May said again in Parliament on Wednesday that she would not support a second vote, the hardline wing of Tory Brexiteers published a plan for leaving the 28-nation trading bloc with no deal and trading with Europe as a third country.
In brief remarks outside her official residence at 10 Downing Street, May agreed that for people outside Parliament the previous 24 hours would have been "unsettling."
"Now MPs have made clear what they don't want, we must all work constructively together to set out what Parliament does want," she said, adding that she had invited the leaders of all parties to meet with her to try to hammer out a deal that could pass a bitterly divided House of Commons.
But, opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who initiated the confidence motion against the government, is in no mood for a compromise.
Corbyn too is under pressure from within his own party with 71 MPs signing a letter calling on him to back a second referendum.
The opposition leader, however, is pushing for a general election, a Brexit that would involve a customs union with the EU and greater worker protections.