MPs authorise PM to go back to EU to renegotiate her Brexit agreement
MPs have authorised Theresa May to go back to Brussels and try to renegotiate her Brexit deal.
But one of the prime minister's most important negotiating weapons was ripped from her hands, as the House of Commons also voted to block a no-deal Brexit.
MPs voted in favour of an amendment saying they would support Mrs May's deal on condition that "alternative arrangements" are found to replace the 'backstop',
Within minutes, however, the Republic's government and European Council president Donald Tusk said there would be no renegotiation.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was last night due to speak to Mrs May. Earlier Mr Varadkar said Brexit was "the great political challenge of our time" and Ireland needs to hold its nerve.
The prime minister secured the backing of the House of Commons to go back to Brussels, as MPs voted by 317 to 301 in favour of a proposal from Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady for her to try to replace the backstop with "alternative arrangements" to keep the border open after Brexit.
Mrs May had issued a plea for MPs to give her a clear "mandate" to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which she agreed with the EU last November, and seek to secure changes to its controversial backstop provision.
The Republic's government responded to the vote saying the Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation.
"The agreement is a carefully negotiated compromise, which balances the UK position on customs and the single market with avoiding a hard border and protecting the integrity of the EU customs union and single market," a statement read.
"The best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify this agreement. We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including for a no-deal scenario."
Mr Tusk said the European Council welcomed and share the UK parliament's ambition to avoid a no-deal scenario.
"The Withdrawal Agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union," he said.
"The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation."
The DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds labelled as "outrageous" the SNP's claim that last night's vote "drives a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement".
He said "nobody in Northern Ireland" was "advocating" any kind of hard border.
"We will work with the prime minister to deliver the right deal for the United Kingdom," he said.