British MPs have voted down eight different Brexit options, ranging from leaving abruptly with no deal to revoking the divorce or holding a new referendum.
Lawmakers voted earlier this week to grab control of the Brexit process for a day in a bid to break the impasse. Several options would see much closer alignment with the EU than Prime Minister Theresa May envisages, including staying in the single market or a customs union.
In the 'indicative vote', MPs were able to support as many proposals as they wished. None of the proposals produced a majority, but the narrowest defeat, by just eight votes, was for a proposal to keep Britain in a permanent customs union with the EU.
Oliver Letwin, a 62-year-old Conservative former cabinet minister who led parliament's unusual power grab, said it was disappointing that no option had immediately produced a majority, but that this had been expected. Letwin said parliament could try again to find that majority next Monday.
Britain was originally due to leave the EU on March 29, but last week the EU granted a postponement until April 12. The uncertainty around Britain's most significant political and economic move since World War II has left allies and investors aghast.
Supporters of Brexit say that, while the divorce might bring short-term instability, in the longer term it will allow the United Kingdom to thrive. Opponents say it will leave Britain poorer and weaker, cut off from its main trade partners.
Most voters think the negotiation has been handled badly and there may now be a slight majority for staying in the EU, recent polls suggest.
Many Conservative MPs say May herself has caused the chaos over Brexit by not negotiating harder with the EU.
"It was inevitable and I just feel she's made the right decision. She has actually read the mood of the party, which was a surprise," said Conservative lawmaker Pauline Latham.
May has offered to quit if her deal was passed, but the Northern Irish party which props up her government will not support it.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster told Sky on Wednesday she could not sign up to something that would damage the union.
In a separate statement, the DUP said: "We will not be supporting the government if they table a fresh meaningful vote."
The DUP said May's deal "poses an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom and will inevitably limit the United Kingdom's ability to negotiate on the type of a future relationship with the EU."