Lawmakers dealt a crushing blow to Prime Minister Theresa May‘s Brexit deal on Tuesday, voting it down 432-202 and triggering a political crisis that could culminate in a chaotic exit from the EU or a potential reversal of the 2016 decision to leave the bloc.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission and former prime minister of Luxembourg, said in a statement that the EU was disappointed by the outcome of the vote and would hasten its preparations for a scenario in which Britain leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.
“The Withdrawal Agreement is a fair compromise and the best possible deal,” Juncker said. “It reduces the damage caused by Brexit for citizens and businesses across Europe. It is the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”
Juncker added that the European Commission had “invested enormous time and effort” and showed both “creativity and flexibility” in coming to a Brexit agreement with May.
“The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote. While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared,” he said.
WATCH: PM Theresa May spurns British lawmakers in wake of EU deal defeat
He also reminded the U.K. that time is running out as its March 29 deadline for Brexit edges closer.
“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible.
“Time is almost up.”
Juncker’s remarks were echoed by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
“We need a fast and clear plan on how to proceed,” Bettel tweeted. “Our internal preparations to limit the damage in case of a no-deal will go ahead at full steam.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the European Council said the best way forward for Britain was for it to stay in the European Union.
“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” said Donald Tusk, former prime minister of Poland.
Up to 100 Labour MPs could push for a second Brexit referendum on Wednesday morning, according to Sky News deputy political editor Beth Rigby.
In her speech prior to the vote, May warned that the deal on the table was the only deal available and that the European Union would not be willing to negotiate another deal unless it came with strong backing from the British Parliament.
Still, some Conservatives expect May to seek further talks with EU leaders to put together a tweaked version of the deal.
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While the U.K. scrambles to forge its next move, the EU’s top Brexit negotiator said the bloc would remain united.
Michel Barnier said the EU’s 27 remaining member countries “will remain united and determined to reach a deal.”
He added, “Now, it is time for the U.K. to tell us the next steps.”
WATCH: Britain left divided after Brexit deal defeated in vote
Indeed, several EU member countries chimed in to express concern about what happens next.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.K. would be the biggest losers in a no-deal Brexit.
“First option, they go towards a no-deal. They say: ‘there is no deal’. That’s scary for everybody. The first losers in this would be the British,” Macron told French mayors during a town hall meeting.
Austria urged May to react quickly, drawing on an iconic British phrase to encourage the U.K. to do what’s required to avert a disorderly Brexit.
“Result of today’s vote in the Commons means prolongation of uncertainty, which is bad for all of us,” the country’s foreign minister Karin Kneissl tweeted. “Orderly Brexit remains possible but UK gov. must act quickly. Austria is prepared for all scenarios.
“Keep calm and carry on.”
— With files from Reuters