British MPs prepare to vote on delaying Brexit

For the business community, including the entertainment industry, Thursday's vote does not change their immediate status but prolongs the uncertainty they have faced over the past three years, since the 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters chose to pull their country out of the European Union.

Lawmakers approved by 412 votes to 202 a statement setting out the option to request a short delay if a Brexit deal can be agreed by March 20 - or a longer delay if no deal can be agreed in time.

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the Houses of Parliament after the defeat [Reuters] Assuming the vote is carried, the Commons will be asked on Thursday whether it wants Mrs May to ask Brussels for an extension to Article 50, delaying Britain's departure from the EU.

She had called on the Commons to get behind her enhanced agreement setting out the UK's exit strategy from the European Union or risk going against the will of the majority that voted for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum.

"The House needs to face up to the decisions it has taken", she told MPs. A further 12 ministers abstained from voting, including the work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, the justice secretary David Gauke, Scottish secretary David Mundell and the business secretary Greg Clark.

The House of Commons defeated the idea by just two votes, 314-312, leaving May least temporarily in charge of the Brexit agenda.

"The whipping was decided very late in the day, not after a collective discussion about it as most policies are".

MPs are now voting on the Government motion to seek an extension of the two-year Article 50 negotiations.

"We acted completely in accordance with long-standing Government policy".

When questioned about the ERG not backing Theresa May's deal, the MP exclaimed: "Oh don't get me started on that!"

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An opposition Labour Party spokesman said this meant she had "given up any pretence of leading the country".

Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory hard Brexiteers, said "collective responsibility has disintegrated" following the string of cabinet abstentions.

He told ITV's Peston: "It is, of course, extraordinary to see such a collapse in discipline".

Are there any other reasons they could refuse an extension? "Maybe I shouldn't let you do it, I'll just get you in trouble".

Overnight, following news of Mrs May's hard-won European Union concessions, sterling had struck a three-week peak at US$1.3289 and to 84.76 pence per euro - a level last seen in May 2017.

Which leaves us where we are now.

"There are some things that we could do to prevent the law going through in the time that is available". I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner, frankly.

The US President said Brexit is "tearing countries apart" but it would be unfair to hold a second referendum.

He said: 'In the last 24 hours parliament has decisively rejected both Mrs May's deal and no deal.

The pound tumbled on Tuesday after the United Kingdom government's top legal advisor cast doubt on Prime Minister Theresa May's last-gasp changes to her Brexit deal hours before a vital vote that few think May can win.

  • Darren Santiago