British MPs have rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for a third time, sounding its probable death knell and leaving Britain's withdrawal from the EU in turmoil on the very day it was supposed to leave the bloc.
The decision to reject a stripped-down version of May's divorce deal has left it totally unclear how, when or even whether Britain will leave the EU, and plunges the three-year Brexit crisis to a deeper level of uncertainty.
After a special sitting of parliament on Friday, MPs voted 344-286 against May's 585-page EU Withdrawal Agreement, agreed after two years of tortuous negotiations with the bloc.
May had told parliament the vote was the last opportunity to ensure Brexit would take place and cautioned that if the deal failed, then any further delay to Brexit would probably be a long one beyond April 12.
"I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House," May told parliament after the defeat.
"This House has rejected 'no deal'. It has rejected 'no Brexit'. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table."
"This government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands," she said.
The British pound, which has been buoyed in recent weeks by hopes that the likelihood of an abrupt 'no-deal' Brexit was receding, fell half a percent after May lost, to as low as US$1.2977.
Within minutes of the vote, European Council President and summit chair Donald Tusk tweeted that EU leaders will meet on April 10 to discuss Britain's departure from the bloc.
The EU executive, the Commission, said that a "no-deal" exit on April 12 was now "a likely scenario".
It was a third failure for May, who had offered on Wednesday to resign if the deal passed, in a bid to win over eurosceptic rebels in her Conservative Party who support a more decisive break with the EU than the divorce her deal offers.
It leaves May's Brexit strategy in tatters; her strongly pro-Brexit trade minister, Liam Fox, had said that Friday represented the last chance to "vote for Brexit as we understood it".
The deal had twice been rejected by huge margins and, although May was able to win over many Conservative rebels, a hard core of eurosceptics and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority government, refused to back it.
MPs who have tried to grab control of the process will on Monday attempt to agree on an alternative Brexit plan that could command majority cross-party support in parliament, something largely unheard of in Britain's political system.
The defeat means Britain now has until April 12 to convince the 27 capitals of the EU that it has an alternative path out of the impasse, or see itself cast out of the bloc from that date with no deal on post-Brexit ties with its largest trading ally.