UK lawmakers have voted in favor of delaying the Brexit process, acknowledging that more time is needed to break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the EU. But they decisively rejected a call for a second referendum.
Prime Minister Theresa May will now ask European leaders to grant an extension to Article 50, the legal process under which Britain is leaving the European Union. Unless a delay is approved by all 27 remaining EU leaders, Britain is heading for a chaotic exit on March 29.
May had reluctantly agreed to support a delay, after the House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected her imperiled withdrawal deal earlier this week. However, her offer is conditional on Parliament approving her plan when she puts it before MPs for a third time next week. She faces a monumental effort to turn around the huge opposition to the deal within her own party.
MPs approved her plan to postpone Brexit by 412 votes to 202. But in a sign of the divisions that continue to plague her Conservative Party, eight Cabinet ministers and 188 of her MPs — more than half her parliamentary bloc — voted against it.
Minutes after wrapping up the debate for the government, in which he urged Parliament to support the delay, her Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay did exactly the opposite. It was a striking act of defiance by the Cabinet minister responsible for delivering the Prime Minister’s Brexit strategy.
In a rare moment of victory for Britain’s embattled leader, May saw off a proposal for Parliament to take greater control of the Brexit process. A plan for MPs to seize control of parliamentary business next week, in order to vote on alternative Brexit plans, was rejected by two votes.
She was also buoyed by an emphatic defeat for supporters of a second Brexit referendum. MPs voted 334 to 85 against a second vote, after the opposition Labour Party told its MPs to abstain.