After lawmakers vote to delay Brexit, May to try her deal again next week

Vidya Ram London | Updated on March 15, 2019 Published on March 15, 2019

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May.   -  Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to make a third attempt to persuade MPs to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU next week. She was bolstered by a Parliamentary victory on Thursday, in which MPs backed her motion to attempt to delay Brexit — either till June 30 if they backed her deal or for a potentially much longer period of time if they didn’t. The potential of a much greater delay to Brexit could push more Conservative MPs — and their supply and confidence partner the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland — to support her deal at a vote next week, most likely on Tuesday.

However, this is far from certain. Some MPs who are pushing for a no-deal exit could still be hopeful that if the withdrawal agreement to be rejected, Britain could still crash out of the EU on March 29. While MPs on Thursday backed the plans to push for a delay to Brexit, getting that postponement is by no means a given. The EU has made clear that it will only agree to an extension if there was credible justification for one — and the real possibility of Britain rallying around a Brexit plan. And there are even some British politicians such as Nigel Farage who’ve been visiting other EU countries to encourage their leaders to veto any attempt to delay Brexit. After the withdrawal agreement was rejected earlier this week, both sides have accelerated plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Developments on Thursday marked a brief respite for the government after a dismal week in which not only was the withdrawal agreement firmly rejected (though by a smaller margin than the previous time) but MPs also voted in favour of an amendment that altered the government’s motion on avoiding a no-deal Brexit. The government’s motion had said Britain wanted to reject a no-deal Brexit only on March 29, but the successful amendment stated that they wanted to reject it outright. While that motion was non-binding it highlighted the extent to which power has slipped from the governments hands, with even cabinet ministers abstaining in the vote.

Move to amend motion

But on Thursday, all attempts to amend the government motion proved unsuccessful. These amendments included a call for a second referendum, another to enable Parliament to find time for a different approach to Brexit and a third to attempt to wrestle control of part of the Brexit parliamentary timetable away from the government and into Parliament’s hands. While the first was lost by a substantial margin of 249, the second came down to a margin of 16, and the third to a wafer-thin margin of 2.

As per the successful government motion on Thursday, if the withdrawal deal is passed at this stage then the government will push for a “one off” extension till June 30. However, if it fails then it would be “highly likely” a longer extension would be needed requiring the UK to take part in European parliamentary elections in May this year. If the agreement does return to the House on Tuesday next week it is likely to continue to face challenges on all sides, including from those pushing for a public vote. The “Kyle-Wilson” amendment is expected to be put forward, which would approve the withdrawal deal so long as it was put to a public vote afterwards.

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Published on March 15, 2019
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