FLASH: UK Parliament voted Thursday to seek a delay of the country’s departure from the European Union, a move that will likely avert a chaotic withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29.
With Brexit due in 15 days and no divorce deal yet approved, the House of Commons voted 412-202 to ask the bloc to postpone Britain’s exit until at least June 30.
Power to approve or reject the extension lies with the EU, whose officials have said they will only allow a delay if Britain either approves a divorce deal or makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit. In a historic irony, almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, its future is now in the bloc’s hands.
By law, Britain will leave the EU on 29 March, with or without a deal, unless it cancels BREXIT or secures a delay.
While the Parliament vote gives Prime Minister Theresa May some breathing space, it was still humbling for a leader who has spent 2 years telling Britons they were leaving the bloc on that date.
But there was some good news for Mrs. May, as lawmakers rejected an attempt to strip her of control over BREXIT.
They defeated an opposition attempt let Parliament choose an alternative to Mrs. May’s rejected divorce deal and force the government to negotiate it with the EU.
Lawmakers also voted to rule out the idea of holding a 2nd BREXIT referendum for now.
Despite the rebuffs and the political chaos, Mrs. May has signaled she will try a third time to get backing for her agreement next week. She is seeking to win over opponents in her own party and its Northern Irish political ally, the Democratic Unionist Party.
If the delay is approved next week, Mrs. May hopes to use it to enact legislation needed for Britain’s departure. She has warned BREXIT supporters who oppose her deal that if no withdrawal agreement is passed in the coming days, the only option will be to seek a long extension that could mean BREXIT never happens.
Any delay in the BREXIT process would require the unanimous approval of all 27 remaining EU member states.
“Under no circumstances an extension in the dark!” tweeted the European Parliament’s BREXIT coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt. “Unless there is a clear majority in the House of Commons for something precise, there is no reason at all for the European Council to agree on a prolongation.”
Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House, President Trump said Britain’s debate over leaving the EU was “tearing the country apart.”
The EU 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.
The bloc is more open to a long delay to allow Britain to radically change course, an idea favored by pro-EU British lawmakers who want to maintain close ties with the EU.