MPs support Brexit delay but reject second referendum
In case you missed all the action, here's our coverage of this evening's vote, which saw British lawmakers vote to delay to the Brexit process. If she can secure a deal by next week, Prime Minister Theresa May will seek a short extension from Brussels to a date no later than June 30.
In the meantime, you can read Luke McGee's analysis about why—after three nights of dramatic, confusing and chaotic votes in the House of Commons—things are looking a little different.
In a sign of the divisions that continue to plague Theresa May's Conservative Party, eight Cabinet ministers and 188 of her MPs (more than half of her parliamentary bloc) refused to support her motion to delay Brexit.
Even her own Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, failed to back the motion.
A number of business chiefs have welcomed the UK Parliament's decision to support a Brexit delay, but have warned that Britain's future remains on a "knife edge."
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said parliament's rejection of a no-deal and support for a Brexit delay showed there was still "common sense" in Westminster. It added that the government must now adopt a "radically new approach" to find consensus among MPs.
While the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the prospect of a delay offers a "glimmer of hope," a no-deal Brexit still remains on the table.
According to Britain's Press Association, BRC chief Helen Dickinson warned that unless there is "definitive action" by lawmakers within the next six days, the UK will crash out of the EU in 15 days which "would inevitably lead to higher prices and less choice on the shelves for consumers."
Theresa May can go to bed happy, sort of. Yes, 188 members of her own party voted against her motion, but she avoided another major defeat and can now lay the ground for a third meaningful vote on her Brexit deal – which will take place before next Wednesday, March 20.
Why before then? Because the very next day, May travels to Brussels for the EU Council Summit, where she will meet with all of the other 27 EU leaders for the final time ahead of Brexit. Or, at least, for the final time ahead of Brexit *as things stand*.
It's at this summit that May will request the extension of Article 50, thereby delaying Brexit.
For how long depends on what happens in meaningful vote 3. If she overturns her 149 vote loss of Tuesday, then the request will be for Brexit to be delayed until June 30. If she loses for a third time, then goodness knows what happens. And if either request is declined, then Brexit happens on March 29, with or without a deal.
An EU Commission Spokesperson has reiterated that any delay to the Brexit process must be approved by all 27 member states.
Read the full statement here:
We take note of tonight’s votes. A request for an extension of Article 50 requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 Member States. It will be for the European Council (Article 50) to consider such a request, giving priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension. President Juncker is in constant contact with all leaders.
Despite telling his MPs to abstain from voting on the second referendum amendment, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has told parliament that the party still supports a public vote.
"I reiterate our support on a public vote -- not as a politically point-scoring, but as a realistic option to break the deadlock," Corbyn told the House of Commons.
More than 200 members from the UK's main opposition party abstained from voting on whether to give the British public a second referendum.
He said the past few days of "government chaos" have put responsibility on Prime Minister Theresa May to not only delay Britain's exit from the European Union, but also to "publicly accept that both her deal and no-deal are simply no longer viable options."
UK lawmakers have voted in favor of delaying the Brexit process, acknowledging that more time is needed to break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the EU.
The motion instructs Prime Minister Theresa May to seek an extension to Article 50, the legal process under which Britain is leaving the European Union. Any delay beyond March 29 would require unanimous approval from the remaining 27 EU member states.
The Prime Minister is now likely to seek the extension at a European Council summit in Brussels next Thursday, after putting her twice-rejected divorce deal back to the House of Commons earlier in the week.
May has warned that a longer delay to Brexit will be required if her deal is rejected a third time. That would force the UK to take part in elections to the European Parliament in May.