British Parliament. parliament.uk

British MPs on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal for leaving the European Union for a third time, raising the spectre of a “no deal” exit or a long delay to the process.

Lawmakers in parliament’s lower House of Commons defied May’s plea to end the political deadlock that has plunged Britain into crisis and defeated her withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286.

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It is yet another blow to a prime minister who has all but lost control of her government and the Brexit process — particularly after she offered to quit if MPs backed the deal.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on Friday, the long-heralded March 29 “Independence Day”, but faced with chaos in Westminster, May asked European leaders last week for a little more time.

She now faces having to return in the coming days to explain what happens next, with speculation in Brussels of an emergency summit on April 10 or 11.

The EU has set a deadline for April 12 for a decision, with two likely options: Britain leaves with no deal at all, or agrees a lengthy extension to allow time for a new approach.

May has said it would be “unacceptable” to ask voters to take part in forthcoming European Parliament elections, three years after they voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

But while “no deal” remains the default legal option, MPs have repeatedly voted against this, fearing catastrophe if Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no plan in place.