The British parliament on Wednesday rejected leaving the European Union without a deal, further weakening Prime Minister Theresa May and paving the way for a vote that could delay Brexit until at least the end of June. After a day of high drama, lawmakers defied the government by voting 321 to 278 in favour of a motion that ruled out a potentially disorderly “no-deal” Brexit under any circumstances.
It went further than the government’s position of keeping the threat of a “no-deal” Brexit on the negotiating table — a stance many in her party said was essential to push Brussels to make further concessions to the deal they have rejected. While the approved motion has no legal force and ultimately may not prevent a no-deal exit, it carries considerable political force, especially as it passed thanks to a rebellion by members of May’s own Conservative Party and her cabinet. May, who still insists it is not possible to rule out a no-deal Brexit entirely, said lawmakers would need to agree a way forward before an extension could be obtained.
The European Commission repeated that a delay would indeed require a justification – but positive comments from Germany and Ireland suggested that EU members at last saw a prospect that a viable deal would be found, and were inclined to help. The pound rose more than 2 percent on the rejection of ‘no-deal’ and was headed for its biggest daily gain this year. The government said there were now two choices – agree a deal and try to secure a short delay to Brexit, or fail to agree anything and face a much longer delay. May said her preference was for a short delay, which would mean the government trying to pass the deal she negotiated by the middle of next week.