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UK MPs set to vote for delay to Brexit Day

Friday, March 15, 2019
By Aditi Khanna

London : In yet another day of hyper activity in the House of Commons, British MPs will return on Thursday to debate and then vote on delaying the March 29 Brexit Day deadline that was set in motion after the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum in June 2016.

The latest vote follows a decisive rejection by Parliament on Wednesday night to rule out leaving the EU without any deal, in two separate votes. British Prime Minister Theresa May soldiered on amid a further blow to her leadership and told the Commons that leaving the 28-member economic bloc without any deal in place by March 29 remains the default option unless a new vote calls for a delay and then the EU accepts such an extension.

Meanwhile, May will also make a third attempt to get her withdrawal agreement passed through, after it was rejected by huge margins in two previous votes – in January and then again earlier this week.

"If the House finds a way in the coming days to support a deal, it would allow the government to seek a short limited technical extension to Article 50 to provide time to pass the necessary legislation and ratify the agreement we have reached with the EU," May said in her Commons statement on Wednesday night.

"But let me be clear, such a short technical extension is only likely to be on offer if we have a deal in place," she said, in a kind of ultimatum to MPs to reconsider their stance on voting for her Brexit deal with the "legally binding" changes to the controversial Irish backstop clause.

She warned that Parliament will have to accept that, if it is not willing to support a deal in the coming days, and as it is not willing to support leaving without a deal on March 29, then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension to Article 50.

Such an extension would require the UK to hold European Parliament elections scheduled for May, which she dismissed as not the "right outcome" as it would put Brexit itself in jeopardy.

As things stand, MPs are set to vote on a government motion on Thursday evening seeking a one-off extension of the Article 50 Brexit mechanism until June 30.

Among the amendments to be considered, the MPs will also decide whether to have a deal in place by March 20 so that the European Council at its meeting the following day can agree to the short extension.

However, if May's deal fails to clear Parliament for a third time by next week, the chances are that the European Council will demand a much longer extension in order to work on alternatives.

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