British lawmakers overwhelmingly back 3-month Brexit delay, Europe News & Top Stories

Mae Love
March 15, 2019

The President of the European Council's intervention on Twitter this morning will bolster claims that the United Kingdom would not leave the EU until 2021 unless Mrs May (pictured outside Downing Street last night) can persuade the DUP and Brexiteers to back her divorce deal.

The government said there were now two choices - lawmakers can either agree a deal and try to secure a short delay to Brexit, or fail to agree anything and face a much longer delay.

Any delay in the Brexit process would require the unanimous approval of all 27 remaining European Union member states.

After a highly volatile week for the pound during which it hit a nine-month high, rising from below US$1.30 to a high of nearly US$1.34 as investors bet Britain would avoid a no-deal Brexit, a Reuters report said.

EU leaders meeting next Thursday will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year, European Council President Donald Tusk said. The EU, meanwhile, is reluctant to postpone Brexit beyond the late May elections for the European Parliament, because that would mean Britain taking part even as it prepares to leave.

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The bloc may be open to a long delay, however, to allow Britain to radically change course.

Such an extension, however, would require Britain to elect members of the European Parliament when all member states hold votes on May 23-26, further complicating matters.

Wednesday night's vote on ruling out a no-deal Brexit exposed the level of disruption a vote on an amendment to a government motion could cause, when the Spelman amendment, which was created to remove reference to leaving without a deal remaining the default option, was passed by a slim majority of four, 312 to 308, altering the government's motion. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted Thursday he will appeal to EU leaders "to be open to a long extension if the United Kingdom finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus about it".

Mrs May will need to convince Brexit supporters in her Conservative Party, as well as members of the Democratic Unionists party, the small Northern Irish party that props up her minority government in parliament, to back her deal ahead of next week's meaningful vote if a short delay is to be put in place. May has ruled that out, but could come to see it as her only option. There's now no majority for that in Parliament. A motion calling for a second referendum was defeated by a thumping 334-85 vote on Thursday.

However, the political calculus could change if the paralysis drags on. These include a customs union, single market membership or a second referendum, it said. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said after Thursday's votes that a new Brexit referendum might offer a realistic way to break the deadlock.

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