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19 Mar 2019 17:30
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  •   Home > News > International

    British MPs vote to seek Brexit delay from European Union

    The British Parliament votes to request a delay of the Brexit deadline, just two weeks out from when the UK was supposed to withdraw from the European Union, leaving the EU member states to agree to grant one.

    Just two weeks out from when the United Kingdom was supposed to withdraw from the European Union, the British Parliament has voted to ask the EU for a delay of the Brexit deadline.

    MPs in the House of Commons carried the government motion to delay the EU leave date — which had been set for March 29 — 412 votes to 202.

    Prime Minister Theresa May will now travel to Brussels to try and seek an extension until June 30, but it is understood EU officials will push for a longer period of time.

    A spokesman for the European Commission said extending the withdrawal date would need the "unanimous agreement" of all 27 EU member states.

    Mrs May will have another chance next week to push her beleaguered withdrawal deal through Parliament. The deal has already failed to pass the House twice by large margins.

    Earlier, Mrs May narrowly survived a bid by the Parliament to wrestle control of the Brexit process from her Government.

    Voting on a cross-party amendment to give Parliament a say on withdrawal negotiations, MPs wound up 312 for to 314 against, a losing margin of just two votes.

    The amendment stated that its intent was to "enable the House of Commons to find a way forward that can command majority support by effectively giving MPs the power to take control of parliamentary time from the Government".

    Mrs May, who has been battling a lost voice since Tuesday, did not speak after the votes, but her official spokesman said she had "absolutely wanted and strived for the UK to be leaving the EU on March 29".

    "Everything she had done since she entered office was intended to deliver that," the spokesman said.

    "She didn't want there to be an extension and brought forward the Withdrawal Agreement twice. Parliament chose to reject that deal and we now have to confront the difficult position that decisions taken by Parliament have left us in."

    Labour abstains from vote on second Brexit referendum

    After the vote Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn reaffirmed his support for a second referendum – despite ordering his MPs not to vote for the amendment to bring one about.

    "Today I reiterate my conviction that a deal can be agreed based on our alternative plan that can command support across the House," the Labour leader said.

    "I also reiterate our support for a People's Vote - not as a political point-scoring exercise but as a realistic option to break the deadlock."

    Labour MPs abstained from voting on the second referendum amendment on the grounds that it was the wrong time to push for it.

    A fourth amendment put forward by Mr Corbyn to allow MPs more time to find a "majority for a different approach" to the Brexit process was defeated 318 votes to 302.

    UK still needs 'unanimous' EU approval

    A spokesman for the EU Commission said it had taken notice of the Parliament's decision, but reiterated that any extension of the Article 50 withdrawal agreement would have to be approved by all EU member states.

    "A request for an extension of Article 50 requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 member states," the spokesman said.

    "It will be for the European Council to consider such a request, giving priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension.

    "President (Jean Claude) Juncker is in constant contact with all leaders."

    EU Council president Donald Tusk indicated earlier on Thursday that he would push the 27 EU member states for a "long extension" during the next council meeting on March 20.

    "During my consultations ahead of #EUCO, I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its #Brexit strategy and build consensus around it," he tweeted.

    Trump says he could be doing Brexit better

    Meanwhile US President Donald Trump has chimed in on the ongoing Brexit chaos, saying Mrs May had not listened to his advice on Brexit negotiations.

    "I'm surprised at how badly it's all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation," he said during a meeting with Irish leader Leo Varadker at the White House.

    "But I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it, and I think you would've been successful.

    "She didn't listen to that, and that's fine, but I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner."

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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