MPs voted by 391 to 242 to reject the deal, a majority of 149 votes, leaving the future of Brexit hanging in the balance. Mrs May saw some of her MPs drop their opposition from January’s crushing defeat, including former Brexit Secretary David Davis, but 75 Tory rebels moved against her. MPs are now expected to block a no-deal Brexit tomorrow and to delay the UK’s departure from the EU on Thursday.
Speaking after the result was announced, Mrs May said she “profoundly regrets the decision this House has taken tonight”.
The Prime Minister said: “I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is the UK leaves the EU in orderly fashion with a deal.
“And that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed only deal available.”
Labour accused the Prime Minister of having “given up any pretence of leading the country” after she announced she will give Tories a free vote tomorrow.
If MPs reject a no-deal Brexit, a third vote will follow the next day on extending Article 50.
But Mrs May insisted that voting against no deal and for an extension “does not solve the problems we face”.
And she even raised the possibility of a second referendum.
The Prime Minister said: “The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension and this House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal, but not this deal?
“These are unenviable choices. Thanks to the decision that the House has made this evening, they are choices that must now be faced.”
A spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said if there is a solution to the Brexit deadlock “it can only be found in London”.
Despite suffering a second defeat over her Brexit deal, a Downing Street source said the Prime Minister was not going anywhere.
The source said: “It still remains the case that the House of Commons as a whole has quite recently expressed its confidence in the Government, which is of course led by the Prime Minister.”
It comes after Mrs May dashed to Strasbourg last night in a bid to secure legally-binding changes to the backstop, which is aimed at preventing a hard Irish border.
But the Prime Minister’s 11th hour agreement with the EU was not enough to win over the majority of the European Research Group (ERG) of 100 pro-Brexit Tories led by Jacob Rees-Mogg or the DUP, whose 10 votes prop up the Government.
On a day of high drama in Westminster, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox refused to backtrack on his legal advice that the UK could be permanently trapped in the backstop arrangement.
Mr Cox admitted that while the risk was reduced it could not be ruled out, shifting momentum against Mrs May.
Meanwhile, in a Commons speech the embattled Prime Minister warned that “Brexit could be lost” if MPs voted down her deal again.
She said: “Tonight, members of this House are faced with a very clear choice.
“Support this deal, in which case we leave the EU with a deal, or risk no deal or no Brexit. These are the options.”