British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, approved by the European Union (EU), has now been voted down twice by the House of Commons and will face a third attempt. The House of Commons has voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit, and also voted against an amendment to force a second Brexit referendum, in an effort to extend Article 50, by 334 votes to 85.
A third vote for PM May’s Brexit deal will take place on March 20. Power to dictate what happens next remains with PM May and Cabinet, not MPs, as a cross-bench amendment vote by MPs to seize control of Brexit failed by two votes, at 314 to 312, which would have allowed backbenchers to debate different Brexit options that day. The Prime Minister said if her deal does pass, she will ask for an extension to June 30. Lack of agreement around how the UK will leave the EU has divided the Conservative Party caucus, primarily between those who want Britain to remain part of the union and the Euroskeptics who support leaving.
Then on Thursday, MPs voted 412 to 202 in favour of the government's motion to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit beyond 29 March, upwards of three months or more. However, the Brexit deadline is legally binding, and cannot be extended without the agreement of all 27 other EU countries. The motion states that Article 50 will be extended until June 30, if MPs approve the Prime Minister's deal by 20 March, and should an agreement not be reached by March 20, the government will seek a more substantial extension. An extension would have to be agreed to by the EU, who would set the terms. Naturally, the EU has indicated that it wants a longer deadline since the longer and more frequent the delays the better chance they think there will be of the UK remaining part of bloc.
Brussels is furious in the face of PM May’s announced plans to hold a third meaningful vote on her Brexit deal just one day before an EU summit to approve an extension to the Article 50 negotiations. The European Council will next meet on March 21. While the 27 EU leaders are divided over the length and conditions for the extension beyond the March 29 deadline, they are united in their irritation that the Prime Minister will give the bloc very little time to consider their response and prepare a joint position.
The Article 50 treaty demands a period of consultation between the leaving member state and the remaining members before an extension was granted. Brussels remains concerned about the risk of a no deal Brexit by accident. EU sources have pinpointed July 2 as the absolute latest deadline Britain could name without holding European elections.
A long extension would mean Britain holding European Parliament elections in May, according to the European Commission and the British Prime Minister. If the UK did not elect MEPs, the new parliament could be subject to legal challenges on the European Court of Justice.