Boris Johnson said he would now speak to his fellow leaders in Europe to sound them out on whether Brexit would now be delayed, and remarked the immediate effect of the vote going against the government is that progress on the deal would not be halted.
After agreeing a last-minute Brexit deal with the European Union last week, Johnson was trying to pass the domestic law needed to enact it.
Meanwhile, calls for another referendum on whether the entire project of leaving the European Union is feasible are growing.
On Tuesday, MPs approved the prime minister's Withdrawal Agreement Bill on its first hurdle through the Commons - called the second reading - by 329 votes to 299.
A longer postponement might be possible if it was clear either a general election or a new referendum was at hand, but a deadline for the European Union is shaping around its next long-term budget from 2021, which will hang on whether Britain is staying or leaving.
The "do or die" promise of "Lying Boris" has failed and Britons deserve "more than a desperate plan scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet", according to the Daily Mirror editorial. Some EU diplomats and officials say this means Britain must be in or out by the middle of next year. He was twice refused last month.
He did not reply to an offer from Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to allow the hefty Brexit bill to be debated at a slower pace than the government's fast-track plan. "This Parliament is broken". He told the BBC on Wednesday an election may not be necessary if MPs can work together to find a way to "crack on".
The Johnson government wanted the House of Commons to scrutinise the bill and pass it in three days, which was rejected by 322 to 308 votes.
Ominously for the government, some lawmakers who support the Brexit deal said they would vote against the short timetable.
But Johnson didn't just want to pass his deal, he wanted to push it through at a breakneck pace before the current October 31 deadline.
But that was overshadowed just minutes later when parliament defeated him on his timetable to rush the legislation through the House of Commons in just three days.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told MPs: "The House has made a 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".
But the prime minister can not force an election himself and would need the backing of Parliament. Johnson had over the weekend formally proposed it as a departure date to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson himself seemed more emollient than earlier, not raising his election threat again.
But with a little more than a week to go, it does not appear likely this will happen before the United Kingdom is supposed to leave the European Union (EU) on October 31. While he didn't set a date, his suggestion that this could be agreed by letter, and without a summit, pointed to accepting the British Parliament's request of a new exit date of January 31. "Let's get Brexit done on 31 October and move on".
The Labour Party will not be able to resist pressure to have an election forever, but it looks increasingly likely that they will push for it to happen in the early stages of 2020 rather than December this year.
The Labour main opposition has spurned two previous chances to face an election.
The rebellion against the programme motion was led by the former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond, and one of Johnson's leadership rivals, Rory Stewart.
On 21 October, UK Parliament speaker John Bercow blocked the government's attempt to vote on a new Brexit deal that Prime Minister Johnson recently negotiated with the EU. Some had feared another no-deal cliff edge.
If Johnson does go for an an election and wins a majority, those promises may be dropped.
-With assistance from Greg Ritchie and Jessica Shankleman.