Friday, March 15, 2019 1:00 am
In vote, UK asks to delay Brexit
LONDON – In a stalemate over Brexit, British politicians have chosen to delay it.
After weeks of political gridlock, Parliament voted Thursday to seek to postpone 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 413-202 to ask the bloc to put off Britain's exit until at least June 30.
The vote gives Prime Minister Theresa May some breathing space, but is still humbling for a leader who has spent two years telling Britons they were leaving the bloc March 29.
Power to approve or reject the extension lies with the EU, which has signaled that it 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.
May is likely to ask EU leaders for an extension at a March 21-22 summit of the bloc in Brussels. The European Commission said the bloc would consider any request, “taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension.”
Lawmakers twice rejected May's EU divorce deal and also ruled out, in principle, leaving the bloc without an agreement. Withdrawing without a deal could mean big disruptions for businesses and people in the U.K. and the 27 remaining countries.
Thursday could have been worse for May. Lawmakers defeated 314-312 an opposition attempt to let Parliament choose an alternative to May's rejected divorce deal and force the government to negotiate it with the EU.
Also Thursday, they decisively defeated a motion that called for another vote by the public on whether to stay in the EU or leave.