British Prime Minister Theresa May faced the prospect of defeat in a historic vote in parliament on her Brexit deal on Tuesday (Jan 15), leaving the country in limbo about its membership of the world's biggest trading bloc, which has shaped its economy for decades.
Pro-Brexit Conservatives, who tried and failed to unseat May as Prime Minister in a confidence vote last month, believe Downing Street is playing up reports that the margin of defeat for May's bill could be higher than 200 - making it the worst for a Prime Minister in British history - as a way of managing expectations and making a narrower defeat look like a minor victory.
He also promised Labour would call a no-confidence vote in the government "soon".
He said: "I just believe this is how the European Union works, they got everything they wanted first time round and the reality is they know we're not going to take this".
Mrs May warned lawmakers on Sunday that failing to deliver Brexit would be catastrophic for democracy, and her ministers said thwarting the outcome of the 2016 referendum could lead to rise in far-right populism.
The defeat was widely expected, but the scale of the House of Commons' vote - 432 votes against the government and 202 in support - was devastating for May's fragile leadership.
"The responsibility of each and every one of us at this moment is profound, for this is a historic decision that will set the future of our country for generations".
Here's a look at what might happen if lawmakers vote down the deal. "I have been clear I don't believe we should be extending Article 50 and I don't believe we should be having a second referendum".
Voting is due to begin at 7pm and could continue for around two hours, depending on how many amendments Speaker John Bercow calls before the final "meaningful vote" on the deal.
But in a sign that the vote may be closer than predicted, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq revealed she had postponed the date of her planned caesarean section by two days so she could vote against May's deal.
The letter, co-signed by European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, however noted there can be no change to the draft withdrawal agreement or future political arrangement that have been provisionally agreed.
The country's March 29 deadline for exiting the European Union is now regarded by Brussels as highly unlikely to be met given the domestic opposition facing the prime minister and it is expecting a request from London to extend article 50 in the coming weeks.
The government also tried to pressure resistant lawmakers by saying their refusal to fall in line could result in Britain remaining a member of the EU.
Danielle Haralambous, a United Kingdom analyst at the EIU, said: "Time is simply running out, and we're at a stage where Brexit can probably only happen in late March now in the unlikely event that parliament approves Mrs May's deal on 15 January, or if parliament supports leaving without a deal".
Even if parliament did agree in principle to a second referendum, Britain would then have to ask for an extension to its timetable for leaving the EU.
May said the assurances made it "even more likely that the backstop will never need to be used". "It is clear this deal would be detrimental to our nation's interests", he said.
- Asking for an extension of Article 50: Mrs May has previously insisted nearly to the point of foot-stamping that Britain will leave the European Union on March 29, and a U-turn here would enrage already puce Brexiteers.
If they fail to do so, a general election would be called.
May has warned that rejecting her deal opens up the possibility of Brexit being stopped, or that Britain leaves disruptively without a deal.