Every day that the government cannot get its deal approved by MPs is a day closer to a no-deal Brexit. By law, on 29 March 2019, Article 50 will be triggered, taking the UK out of the European Union. If we don’t have a deal by that date, then there will be no transition period or continuity in our relationship with the EU’s institutions.
This means that by rejecting the government’s deal, MPs are taking us closer to a no-deal Brexit. If they had spent months rallying around a plausible alternative that could win a majority in the House of Commons, or majority support for an extension of Article 50, then perhaps things would be different. But as it stands, all MPs can really agree on is that they don’t like Theresa May’s deal. This means no deal is the default alternative.
Because parliament has rejected the deal, however, MPs representing alternatives such as a second referendum or the Norway-Plus, softer Brexit option will hope they can attract more supporters to their cause as a no-deal Brexit becomes an ever-more serious and immediate prospect. In striving for a general election, Labour, too, will hope that through putting down a no-confidence motion, it will attract votes from MPs fearing a no deal.
So yes, a rejection of May’s deal takes us closer to no deal, but MPs opposing her deal hope that it will also have the effect of focusing their colleagues’ minds on their preferred alternative.