Saturday 19 October 2019

Vote to delay Brexit planned as MPs reject leaving EU without a deal

  • UK parliament votes to reject no-deal Brexit
  • Vote planned for Thursday on delaying Brexit
  • Barnier: EU would want clear reason for any delay
British Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London Credit: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London Credit: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Wire

William James, Kylie MacLellan and Elizabeth Piper

British MPs have rejected leaving the European Union without a deal, paving the way for a vote to delay Brexit to seek a way out of Britain's worst political crisis in generations.

The House of Commons voted 312 to 308 - a majority of four - in favour of a cross-party amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit.

And the vote was later confirmed by a more emphatic 321 votes to 278, overriding a Government motion tabled by Theresa May which would have rejected no-deal on the scheduled date of March 29 but left it on the table for other times.

Despite the MPs’ vote to reject a no-deal Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that it remains the default option if no deal was reached.

Theresa May said that MPs will vote tomorrow on an extension to Article 50, which could involve a short delay to implement a deal agreed in the next few days or a longer delay if no agreement is reached.

"If the House finds a way in the coming days to support a deal, it would allow the government to seek a short, limited, technical extension to Article 50 ... Such a short technical extension is only likely to be on offer if we have a deal in place," Mrs May told parliament.

"The House has to understand and accept that if it is not willing to support a deal in the coming days and - as it is not willing to support leaving without a deal on March 29 - then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension to Article 50."

She added that the longer extension would mean Britain would undoubtedly have to take part in European Parliament elections in May.

After two-and-a-half years of negotiations and two failed attempts to pass a Brexit deal proposed by May, the vote against a no-deal exit still leaves undecided how, when and on what terms Britain will leave the club it joined in 1973.

After lawmakers crushed her deal for a second time on Tuesday, May said it was still the best option for leaving in an orderly fashion.

Ahead of Wednesday's vote, the pound headed for its biggest daily rise in 2019 as investors bet on a vote against a no-deal Brexit. It rose again on the result of the vote.

As the United Kingdom's three-year Brexit crisis spins towards its finale, diplomats and investors see four main options: a delay, May's deal passing at the last minute, an accidental no-deal exit or another referendum.


Britain's government will propose on Thursday to seek a delay to Brexit until June 30 if parliament approves a deal to leave the European Union by March 20, the parliamentary Speaker said.

The government will also say that if no agreement has been approved by parliament by March 20, it is unlikely that the European Union will approve any extension at its summit on March 21-22 without a specific reason to do so.

If the deal is passed by March 20 "then the government will seek to agree with the European Union a one-off extension ... for a period ending 30 June 2019 for the purpose of passing the necessary EU exit legislation", the Speaker John Bercow told parliament.

A delay will require the agreement of all the bloc's other 27 members.

The EU would prefer only a short extension, with the deadline of EU-wide parliamentary elections due May 24-26, although it is unclear that this would be long enough to solve the impasse in London.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc would need to know why Britain wanted to extend talks and that it was up to London to find a way out of the deadlock. The EU said there could be no more negotiations on the divorce terms.

May's deal covers such things as citizens' rights, the status of the Irish border and Britain's divorce bill from the EU.

It takes Britain out of the EU single market and customs union, common fisheries and farm policies and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It also offers a status-quo transition period in which to negotiate trade arrangements.

Under a no-deal exit, there would be no transition period to soften the disruption to trade and regulations. Britain would quit the EU's 500 million-strong single market and customs union and fall back on World Trade Organisation rules, which could mean tariffs on many imports and exports.

Varadkar hits out at Brexiteers 'chasing unicorns' as he warns no-deal a growing possibility

Sarah Newton has resigned as a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions over the Brexit vote, a DWP source said.

Responding to another chaotic night in Westminster, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "Things are looking a little brighter today than they did yesterday.

"The House of Commons has voted decisively against leaving the EU without a deal."

He now anticipates the UK will seek an extension and the EU will want to know "what the purpose of that extension is and for how long."


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