LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government suffered a defeat in parliament on Tuesday when lawmakers who oppose leaving the European Union without an accord won a vote that created a new obstacle to a no-deal Brexit.
The 303 to 296 defeat means that the government needs explicit parliamentary approval to leave the EU without a deal before it can use certain powers relating to taxation law.
The defeat highlights May’s weak position as leader of a minority government, a divided party, and a critical parliament just days before she is due to hold a pivotal vote on whether to approve the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the EU.
“This vote is an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit. It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement,” opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party said.
The government downplayed the significance of its defeat.
“This amendment does not change the fact that the UK is leaving the EU on the 29 March, and it will not stop the government from collecting tax,” a spokesman said.
“We will work with Parliament to make sure that the tax system works smoothly in all Brexit scenarios.”
With less than three months until Britain leaves the EU, May is struggling to win approval for her Brexit deal.
A no-deal exit is the default scenario if May’s deal is rejected, and the prospect of possible supply chain disruption, medicine shortage and blocked ports has in recent weeks pushed companies and the government to ramp up contingency planning.