MPs have dramatically rejected crashing out of the European Union without a deal at any time and under any circumstances.

In a surprise move, the Commons voted 312 to 308 - a majority of four - in favour of an amendment tabled by Tory former cabinet minister Dame Caroline Spelman.

Dame Caroline attempted to withdraw the amendment, but it was moved by fellow signatory Yvette Cooper and won the support of a majority of MPs during a string of crunch Brexit votes on Wednesday evening.

The amendment is not legally binding, but it changes the Government's motion to say the House "rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship".

Theresa May said on Tuesday night that she would bring forward a motion on Thursday on whether Parliament wants to seek an extension to Article 50, if the Commons declined to approve leaving without a deal.

However no-deal remains the default option unless an extension is agreed with the 27 other EU states, or a deal is passed before the end of the month.

To avoid a walkout by Cabinet ministers who oppose a no-deal Brexit, Mrs May has given Tories a free vote on the Government motion.

The wording of the motion declares the Commons "declines to approve" leaving without a deal on March 29 - but notes that remains the default position unless an agreement is reached.

Members of the Malthouse Compromise group of Tories from both Leave and Remain wings have tabled an amendment calling for Brexit to be delayed until May 22, followed by a "standstill" agreement lasting as late as the end of 2021, during which the UK would observe EU rules and pay into Brussels budgets while a full trade deal is negotiated.

The EU has already rejected the idea, which it views as amounting to a transition period without a formal Withdrawal Agreement.

Opposition MPs blamed strong-arm tactics by Tory whips as Dame Caroline tried to pull her amendment before it came to a vote.

The former Tory chairman told the Commons that Mrs May's motion offered a greater opportunity than hers for obtaining a "really large majority" against a no-deal Brexit.

But Speaker John Bercow told her it was not possible for her to withdraw the amendment, as one of its other signatories could move it to a vote.

Independent Group MP Anna Soubry told the Commons: "It's a shameful carry-on when a former chairman of the Conservative Party is whipped against to the extent she will not push that amendment to the vote."

An extension to Article 50 can only be granted by unanimity among the 27 remaining EU member states, and Brussels has made clear they will do so only if the UK presents a "credible" justification for being given more time.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament it was the responsibility of London to suggest a way forward.

"What will their choice be, what will be the line they will take?" he asked.

"That is the question we need a clear answer to now. That is the question that has to be answered before a decision on a possible further extension.

"Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted. We have the Withdrawal Agreement. It is there."

Divisions between the different wings of the Cabinet were on show as MPs considered rejecting a no-deal Brexit.

Chancellor Philip Hammond used his Spring Statement to call on MPs to "put aside our differences and seek a compromise", warning the UK would face "significant disruption" from a no-deal Brexit.

But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said he would prefer a no-deal scenario - even though it risks economic harm and threatens to break up the United Kingdom - to the prospect of not leaving the European Union.

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer said that after the 149-vote defeat of her deal on Tuesday, Mrs May's mantra of "my deal or no deal" should be "dead and buried".

But Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss indicated that she believes the deal could still be brought back a third time to the Commons and secure a majority.

"I think it is still alive, I do," Ms Truss told BBC Radio 4's PM.

"Ultimately, when you look at the alternatives - which are a customs union, no Brexit or no-deal - Theresa May's deal is more attractive than those other three options.

"I think that's the conclusion MPs will ultimately come to."