The EU is poised to accept the prime minister’s request for a fresh Brexit delay after he paused the progress of legislation aimed at ratifying his divorce deal.
Boris Johnson took the action after MPs rejected his timetable to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is needed to put his Brexit deal into UK law.
MPs voted by 322 to 308 to defeat the government’s programme motion for the bill – which set out plans for the legislation to complete its passage through the House of Commons by Thursday night.
A senior EU source said European Council President Donald Tusk will recommend EU member states accept an extension until 31 January – which can be terminated when or if a Brexit deal is ratified.
A Number 10 source said if the EU agrees to the Brexit delay then “the only way the country can move on is with an election”.
Mr Johnson was forced into making his reluctant request for a three-month Brexit delay – until 31 January 2020 – following a previous Commons defeat last Saturday, when MPs withheld approval for his deal until the ratifying legislation is passed.
Tuesday night’s result threatens Mr Johnson’s promise to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October “do or die”, and also raises the prospect of a general election once more.
But the prime minister did receive some good news when his Brexit deal passed its first Commons hurdle after MPs backed its second reading.
It is the first time MPs have voted in favour of a Brexit deal since the Leave vote in June 2016.
Responding to the defeat of the government’s programme motion, the prime minister said he would “pause this legislation”.
Opposition MPs had accused the government of trying to “railroad” through the bill and “blindside” parliament with the tight timetable.
Mr Johnson said he would consult with EU member states about their response to his Article 50 extension request.
“I must express my disappointment that the House has again voted for delay, rather than a timetable that would have guaranteed that the UK would be in a position to leave the EU on 31 October with a deal,” the prime minister said.
“And we now face further uncertainty and the EU must make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay.”
He added the government would now “take the only responsible course” and “accelerate” no-deal Brexit preparations.
The prime minister was defeated after his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) allies, who are fiercely opposed to his Brexit deal, voted against the programme motion.
Nine former Tory MPs, including ex-chancellor Philip Hammond, also voted against the government.
Meanwhile, five Labour MPs defied their party’s orders and voted in favour of the bill’s timetable.
Following the government’s defeat, the pound fell against the dollar and the euro.
Sterling dropped 0.40% to $ 1.281, down from the 22-week highs reached earlier in the day driven by optimism about the Brexit deal.
Against the euro, the pound fell 0.24%, to 0.862.
Mr Johnson praised MPs who were “sceptical” of his Brexit deal but “decided to place the national interest ahead of any other consideration” and vote for its second reading, which passed by 329 votes to 299.
This gave the government a majority of 30 MPs for the Brexit deal, in principle.
Nineteen Labour MPs voted in favour of the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, including the party’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Jo Platt.
“Nobody thought we could secure the approval of the House for a new deal and we should not overlook the significance of this moment,” the prime minister said.
Reiterating his pledge to deliver Brexit on Halloween, he added: “Let me be clear. Our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on 31 October and that is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House.
“And one way or another we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent.
“And I thank members across the House for that hard-won agreement.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said MPs had “refused to be bounced into debating a hugely significantly piece of legislation in just two days with barely any notice or an analysis of the economic impact of this bill”, following the rejection of the government’s programme motion.
He claimed the prime minister was “the author of his own misfortune” after tabling a three-day timetable for debating the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Mr Corbyn made an offer to Mr Johnson to “work with all of us to agree a reasonable timetable”, adding: “And I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinise – and I hope amend – the detail of this bill.
“That would be the sensible way forward.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford described “yet another humiliating defeat” for Mr Johnson.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson called on Mr Johnson to “be a statesman” and secure a Brexit delay from the EU long enough to hold a general election or a second EU referendum.
The DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “It is perfectly proper and right and the House has made a very wise decision to allow further time for detailed examination of some of the most important legislation that we will ever have to consider, particularly given the impact on Northern Ireland.”
He urged the prime minister to “sit down and talk to us again about what can be done, even at this late stage, to ensure that we join in this great quest to get Brexit done, but as one United Kingdom”.
Following the pause of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, MPs will now return to consider the Queen’s Speech, which sets out Mr Johnson’s legislative agenda.
The Queen’s Speech debate started last week but was shelved this week after the prime minister presented his Brexit deal to MPs.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, who announced the revival of the Queen’s Speech debate, revealed it will conclude on Thursday.
This will see Mr Johnson, who does not enjoy a Commons majority, battle to avoid becoming the first prime minister since 1924 to lose a Queen’s Speech vote.