British lawmakers overwhelmingly back 3-month Brexit delay, Europe News & Top Stories

Marco Green
March 15, 2019

The prime minister is trying to force MPs to choose between her deal and a "long" extension, which could last up to two years.

Her Conservative government is holding talks with its Northern Irish political allies and pro-Brexit backbench lawmakers to see if they will abandon their opposition to a deal they fear keeps Britain too closely tied to the bloc.

Trump said he was "surprised at how badly" the negotiations have been handled. Earlier on Thursday, lawmakers voted by 334 to 85 against a second referendum on European Union membership.

Since then, the value of the British pound has plummeted, and companies have begun making contingency plans for a post-Brexit world in which European workers can not easily move to Britain, tariffs might be resurrected and trade becomes harder.

Power to approve or reject the extension lies with the European Union, whose officials have said they will only allow a delay if Britain either approves a divorce deal or makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit. She still hopes to get the House of Commons to pass her divorce deal despite two big defeats.

It's possible May might bring her plan to Parliament for yet a third vote next week if she is able to forge a compromise with the dissenters in her ranks.

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British lawmakers overwhelmingly back 3-month Brexit delay, Europe News & Top Stories

And anti-Brexit campaigners haven't abandoned the idea of a new referendum on remaining in the EU.

Sterling, which swung more wildly this week than at any point since 2017, fell on Thursday from nine-month highs as investors turned cautious about May's chances of getting her Brexit deal approved next week.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had earlier said he looked forward to negotiating a "large scale" trade deal with Britain after Brexit, added to May's headaches by criticising her handling of the crisis. She didn't listen to that, and that's fine.

Today Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox could revisit his legal advice on whether Britain would be trapped in the Irish backstop "indefinitely" - unlocking votes for Mrs May's deal.

Wednesday night's vote on ruling out a no-deal Brexit exposed the level of disruption a vote on an amendment to a government motion could cause, when the Spelman amendment, which was created to remove reference to leaving without a deal remaining the default option, was passed by a slim majority of four, 312 to 308, altering the government's motion.

But there was no immediate sign of any major shift in the views of Conservative hardline eurosceptics who have so far thwarted the prime minister. This option proved popular, since politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate fear that time is running out to secure an orderly withdrawal by March 29.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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