U.K. lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday voted in favor of a delay in Britain’s departure from the European Union, just weeks before the U.K. is due to leave — although it is far from clear if E.U. leaders will agree to such a delay.
Lawmakers voted 412-202 in favor of the motion, which urges Prime Minister’s Theresa May’s government to go to Europe and request an extension past the March 29 deadline.
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It comes as the culmination of a week of furious votes in Parliament, in which May’s withdrawal agreement was overwhelmingly voted down for the second time on Tuesday, On Wednesday, lawmakers voted to reject a “no deal” Brexit.
Currently Britain is set to leave without a deal, something that May’s government and opposition MPs have warned could be chaotic, but that pro-Brexit MPs have noted would simply revert Britain to World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, and have downplayed the disruption it would cause.
Neither the rejection of “no deal” nor the Thursday vote for an extension are binding, and don’t change the facts on the ground. It is now up to May to go to Europe and see if she can agree to a delay — a delay she previously said would be short-term and no later than June.
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Calls for such a short delay have been greeted frostily on the continent. French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that E.U. leaders would only agree to an extension “if it is justified by new choices by the British.”
On Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said that he would call for E.U. leaders to be open to a “long extension” but that was on the condition that Britain “rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”
E.U. leaders may demand that Britain hold a redo of the 2016 referendum as a condition for a delay. But, while the opposition Labour Party and other smaller parties have backed a second referendum, lawmakers are cautious of being seen to back such a radical move before all other options are exhausted.
An amendment on Thursday that called for a delay so as to allow a second referendum was soundly defeated in Parliament, being voted down 334-85 — suggesting there isn’t an appetite for a second referendum yet.
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Meanwhile, the BBC reported that May will make a third attempt next week to get her withdrawal deal through Parliament, warning Brexiteers that that will be the only way to prevent a lengthy Brexit delay.
In Washington, President Trump appeared to try and tempt lawmakers to get on with it by renewing his promise for a “large scale trade deal” between the U.S. and the U.K.
Later on Thursday, in the Oval Office alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Trump said he was “surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation” and said that May didn’t listen to his advice on how to negotiate with the E.U. He also said that a second referendum, that some pro-E.U. politicians are calling for in the U.K., would be “unfair.”
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“I hate to see everything being ripped apart right now, I don’t think another vote would be possible because it would be very unfair to the people that won that say: ‘What do you mean you’re going to take another vote?'” he said. “So that would be tough.”