Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (U.K.) Theresa May postponed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, delayed as late as January 21, 2019, telling the House of Commons, “If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin … We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time,” and adding that she was confident it was the right deal. The government will now advance contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit when it is due to leave on March 29, 2019.
PM May insisted "it is not possible to give a date" for when the delayed vote would happen, suggesting she is obliged under current British legislation to hold it by January 21st. However, House of Commons officials argue that that obligation no longer applies, meaning she could hold the vote as late as March 28, 2019.
PM May’s decision to halt the vote came hours after the European Court of Justice stated in an emergency judgment that the U.K. could revoke its Article 50 formal divorce notice with no penalty. She said she would now go back to the European Union (E.U.) and seek reassurances over the so-called Irish backstop, which is meant to ensure no return to a hard border with Ireland as a result of Brexit but is seen by many on all sides in Parliament as leaving Britain’s Northern Ireland province within the E.U.’s economic and regulatory orbit.
After a meeting with counterparts in Brussels, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said there were no possibilities to amend Britain’s 585-page withdrawal deal, saying “I cannot see at the moment what could be changed ... We have an agreement ... supported by both sides. We want an orderly Brexit.” European Council President Donald Tusk said the backstop would not be renegotiated and that time is running out for a negotiated settlement, as he announced he would convene a Council meeting this Thursday.
PM May claimed other E.U. leaders were open to a discussion about the backstop, but few in Parliament were convinced. Deputy leader Nigel Dodds of the Northern Irish party, which props up May’s minority government, said, “Please, prime minister, really do start listening and come back with changes to the withdrawal agreement or it will be voted down.”
Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said, "We cannot continue like this. The Prime Minister must either govern or quit." The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said Britain no longer had “a functioning government” and called on PM May to “make way” for a Labour government. The Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats both said they would support a vote of no confidence in PM May’s government.