- UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
- Members of Parliament have voted 412-202 to delay Brexit beyond March 29.
- The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union in just two weeks, but Parliament’s decision means Prime Minister Theresa May will request an Article 50 extension of at least three months.
- The prime minister could request a significantly longer delay to Brexit if MPs next week reject her deal for the third time.
- 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 Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to get her deal through the House of Commons.
MPs on Thursday voted 412-202 for a motion instructing the prime minister to ask the European Union for an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process.
If the other 27 EU member states agree to an Article 50 extension, 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 next Wednesday, the UK’s departure will have to be delayed by only 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 to find a new way forward, the prime minister has said. In this scenario, the UK would be obliged to take part in the European Parliament elections in May.
“The prime minister absolutely wanted and strived for the UK to leave the EU on March 29,” her representative said following the result.
Significantly more Conservative MPs voted against the delay than for it: 188 to 112. Among them were eight members of May’s Cabinet, including Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom, Chris Grayling, and Penny Mordaunt.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay also voted against the motion, despite arguing for it in the debate which came before the vote.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to work together with MPs across the House of Commons to find a new Brexit deal which could command majority support.
“After the last few days of government chaos and some defeats, all of us now have the opportunity and the responsibility to work together to find a solution to the crisis facing this country, where the government has so dramatically failed to do so,” Corbyn said.
On Wednesday evening, MPs voted to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances.
May keeps control of the Brexit process
The government also narrowly defeated a potentially explosive amendment which would have given MPs power to control what should happen if May fails to get her deal through next week.
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 314-312, giving the government a majority of just two votes.
MPs also rejected, 334-85, an amendment tabled by the Independent Group’s Sarah Wollaston that called for Brexit to be delayed to hold a new referendum.
Swathes of MPs who support a new referendum, or what campaigners call a “people’s vote,” did not support the amendment because they thought it was the wrong time to push for it.
The prime minister said she planned to put her withdrawal agreement to a third “meaningful vote” next week, though it has twice been rejected comprehensively.
In a statement, the CBI, a British lobbying group representing 190,000 firms, described the vote to delay Brexit as showing “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 Josh Hardie, the group’s deputy director-general. “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,” Hardie added. “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.”