May to ask EU for Brexit delay
A European Commission spokesman said it was up to European leaders to consider any request to delay Brexit. The UK can cancel Brexit unilaterally but the EU decides on the terms of any delay, and it might insist the UK takes part in early May’s European elections.
MPs voted heavily to acknowledge that more time was needed to break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the EU. But they decisively rejected a call for a people’s vote, although this opposition might reduce in the weeks to come, especially if the EU insists another referendum is held in exchange for a delay.
May was forced by her divided cabinet to agree to support a delay after MPs overwhelmingly again rejected her withdrawal agreement earlier this week. Parliament will vote on her revised withdrawal plan when she puts it before MPs for a third time next week amid huge opposition from her own party.
MPs approved her plan to ask to postpone Brexit by 412 votes to 202 but eight of her cabinet ministers and 188 of her own MPs, more than half her parliamentary party, voted against the move.
Brexit minister Stephen Barclay, immediately after ending the debate for the government and calling on MPs to support the delay, voted against a delay, in an open act of defiance.
The opposition Labour Party is also in tatters on Brexit.
Five Labour MPs resigned from their party roles to defy orders and vote against holding a fresh Brexit referendum or people’s vote.
Labour ordered its MPs to abstain on a cross-party bid to delay Brexit to allow another referendum on backing whatever deal is agreed or remaining in the European Union.
But 41 Labour MPs rebelled, with 24 supporting a people’s vote and 17 voting to oppose it. Many Labour MPs represent constituencies that voted heavily to leave in June 2016 and some fear for their safety during another campaign.
Stephanie Peacock MP resigned as a Labour whip, saying she had been elected to honour the 2016 result.
She wrote to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: “The people of Barnsley elected me to honour that promise and that is what I did tonight.
“I felt in all good conscience I had to vote tonight to clearly rule out any form of second referendum. I believe the people spoke in 2016 and we need to enact their decision.”
Labour’s Ruth Smeeth, MP for leave-voting Stoke-on-Trent North, resigned as assistant to Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson. It was a “difficult decision but I have a duty to support the will of my constituents”, she said.
Smeeth wrote: “We need to leave and leave with a deal that works for the Potteries [in Staffordshire].”
The FT 100 stock index in London rose 0.4 per cent after the news of a possible delay.
The EU might insist on a people’s vote. Picture credit: Eurasia Times