Theresa May’s pledge to leave the EU on March 29 was in tatters last night as MPs voted to delay Brexit .
But nine Cabinet ministers, including her Brexit Secretary, refused to back the extension of at least three months.
The chaos left MPs despairing that the uncertainty around the UK’s departure could continue for years.
The Prime Minister is now desperately scrambling to resurrect her own battered deal for a third time.
She faces tough days of negotiations with Brexiteer and DUP MPs ahead another shot next Tuesday or Wednesday.
The PM clawed back a fragment of authority after a plan for MPs to take control of the Brexit process was defeated by just two votes.
However, the narrowness of the result was a warning shot to the Government that if her deal falls again Parliament will take over,
Parliament voted by 413 to 202, a majority of 211, to back a one-off extension by at least three months – and possibly much longer.
Seven top ministers voted against, including Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay who moments before had defended the plan at the despatch box.
The others were Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, Gavin Williamson, Andrea Leadsom and Liz Truss.
Two more, Chief Whip Julian Smith and Wales Secretary Alun Cairns, abstained.
Although Mrs May had given them a free vote, it came as yet another blow to her already fragile authority.
Just as worryingly for the PM ahead of next week’s key vote, they were joined by 118 Tory MPs while just 112 supported the Government.
Downing Street insisted, however, that the Cabinet was united. “They’ve agreed to redouble efforts to secure the deal,” an aide said.
Former Vote Leave chairman Michael Gove and former Brexit Secretary David Davis both backed the PM.
Cabinet sources claimed that at a meeting before the vote the PM went “bats**t” at Remainer ministers who abstained on a No Deal Brexit.
Business Secretary Greg Clark’s attempts to defend defend himself “ended badly” while Welfare Secretary Amber Rudd was described as “bashful”.
Mrs May’s hopes of passing her deal at the third attempt looked slim, after it was defeated by 149 votes this week and 230 in January.
But if she succeeds, she will go to Brussels next Thursday to request a short delay up to June 30.
It will have to be agreed unanimously by the other 27 EU leaders.
This short “technical” extension would give the Government time to pass laws needed for a smooth Brexit.
But if her plan is rejected yet again, any extension would be far longer and involve the UK taking part in European elections in May.
The Government would then stage two weeks of debate after the summit for MPs to try to reach a compromise on the way forward.
EU chief Donald Tusk has warned there will need to be “consensus” before a delay is agreed and said he would lobby for a two-year delay.
The move was seen as helpful to the PM as she tries to frighten Brexiteers into line.
Tory eurosceptics and the hardline DUP signalled they could back her deal if the legal advice was clearer.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is proposing using the Vienna convention to avoid the UK being trapped in a customs union indefinitely.
But a string of illustrious lawyers – including predecessor Dominic Grieve and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer – slammed the plan.
The Brexiteers’ “star chamber” rules on the proposal on Monday, although their own lawyer is said to already regard it as a non-starter.
There were more signs that Tory Brexiteers were still looking for a ladder to climb down.
Conor Burns, a former aide to Boris Johnson, said: “I’m actually looking for a reason to support it.”
But around 18 Brexiteer hardliners are understood to be standing firm. “They would rather go down in a blaze of glory than get a resolution,” one Tory MP said.
Several others said they would only support the hated plan if the PM quits. One told the Mirror: “More and more of us are thinking that.”
With six Tory rebels on the Remain side it leaved Mrs May dependent on Labour votes to finally get her deal through.
Labour MP for Manchester Central Lucy Powell said: “The latest Brexit shambles in a long line of chaos, is an embarrassment to all of us and to our country.
“I know it doesn’t look like it, but most of us just want to sort this mess out.
“The Government needs to stop messing us around and facilitate Parliament coming together to get this sorted once and for all.”
It came after MPs voted down a cross-party plan, led by Labour’s Hilary Benn, for Parliament to seize control of the process.
In dramatic scenes in the Commons, the move to force a series of “indicative votes” to determine MPs’ preferred outcome on Brexit, was voted down by 314 to 312.
Six Labour MPs voted against the plan.
Tory MP for Aberconwy Guto Bebb said: “I’m appalled at the self-indulgence of so called ‘leadership contenders’ putting their perceived career prospects ahead of the national interest.
"Today’s incoherent votes are a new low for this Government which needs to urgently get real about the dangers facing our country.”