Eurosceptic Conservative MPs refused to support the Government as it sought Parliament’s backing to go back to Brussels and renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement that was rejected by MPs last month.
The latest plan, which called on MPs to rubber-stamp previous votes ordering the Government to win concessions from EU leaders on the Irish backstop and to avoid a no-deal Brexit, was defeated by 258 - 303.
Members of the backbench European Research Group had earlier threatened to vote down the motion as they said it effectively blocked a no-deal Brexit, undermining Britain’s negotiating position.
But the group’s deputy chairman Steve Baker later said there has been a “collective decision” to abstain.
Speaking after the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Tonight’s vote shows there is no majority for the Prime Minister’s course of action in dealing with Brexit.
“Yet again her Government has been defeated. The Government cannot keep on ignoring parliament or ploughing on towards 29 March without a coherent plan.
“She cannot keep on just running down the clock and hoping that something will turn up.”
During a five hour Commons debate yesterday, ministers urged MPs to swing behind the latest Brexit strategy, warning that a defeat for the Prime Minister would send the “wrong signal” to Brussels.
The defeat will come as a fresh blow to Mrs May as she prepares to relaunch efforts to win compromises on the Withdrawal Agreement from EU leaders.
In response, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn yet again put partisan considerations ahead of the national interest – and yet again, by voting against the Government’s motion, he is in effect voting to make no deal more likely.
“While we didn’t secure the support of the Commons this evening, the Prime Minister continues to believe, and the debate itself indicated, that far from objecting to securing changes to the backstop that will allow us to leave with a deal, there was a concern from some Conservative colleagues about taking no deal off the table at this stage.
“The motion on 29th January remains the only one the House of Commons has passed expressing what it does want – and that is legally binding changes to address concerns about the backstop. The Government will continue to pursue this with the EU to ensure we leave on time on 29th March.”