- MPs have voted by 412 to 202 to delay Brexit beyond March.
- The UK is scheduled to leave in just two weeks, but the decision by parliament means May will now request an Article 50 extension of at least three months.
- The prime minister could request a significantly longer delay to Brexit if MPs reject her deal for a third time next week.
- All other 27 EU member states would have to agree to an Article 50 extension.
LONDON – Members of Parliament have voted to delay Brexit just two weeks before the planned departure date as Theresa May struggles to get her deal through the House of Commons.
MPs on Thursday voted by 412 to 202 for a motion which instructs the prime minister to ask the European Union for an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process.
If the remaining 27 EU member states agree to an Article 50 extension, it means the United Kingdom will not leave on March 29 as originally scheduled.
May has told MPs that if they agree to back a Brexit deal by Wednesday next week, the UK’s departure will only have to be delayed by three months, meaning Brexit would take place on June 30.
However, if the House of Commons does not approve a deal by Wednesday, the UK government will be forced to ask for a much longer delay, in order to create time to find a new way forward, the prime minister has said.
The move comes after MPs voted to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances on Wednesday evening.
Theresa May keeps control of the Brexit process
The government also narrowly defeated a potentially explosive significant amendment which would have given MPs power to control what should happen next if May failed to get her deal through.
The amendment – tabled by senior backbench MPs including Labour’s Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper – would have paved the way for “indicative votes” on a series of alternatives to May’s deal, including a softer Brexit.
It was rejected by 314 votes to 312, giving the government a majority of just two votes.
Elsewhere, MPs comprehensively rejected an amendment tabled by the Independent Group’s Sarah Wollaston, which called for Brexit to be delayed in order to hold a new referendum, by votes 334 to 85.
Swathes of MPs who support a fresh referendum, or what campaigners call a “People’s Vote,” did not support the amendment as they believed it was the wrong time to push for it.
The prime minister plans to put her Withdrawal Agreement to a third “meaningful vote” next week, despite the fact it has already being rejected comprehensively on two occasions.
In a statement, the CBI, a lobby group for 190,000 British firms, said the vote to delay Brexit showed “common sense” but called on MPs to find an alternative way forward.
“After an exasperating few days, Parliament’s rejection of no deal and desire for an extension shows there is still some common sense in Westminster,” said the group’s deputy director-general Josh Hardie.
“But without a radically new approach, business fears this is simply a stay of execution.
“MPs have an urgent duty to put in place a process that can determine what deal Parliament does want.
“Both main parties must make meaningful moves to find consensus, not simply double-down on their red lines or put hopes of power ahead of the country.”