- Members of Parliament on Tuesday backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to delay Brexit until June 30.
- The prime minister will travel on Wednesday to Brussels, where she will seek support for a delay from European Union leaders.
- The European Council is set to decide the length and conditions of any extension.
- EU leaders reportedly want a much longer delay to Brexit, of up to a year.
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LONDON – Members of Parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of Theresa May’s plan to delay Brexit until June 30, ahead of the prime minister’s trip to Brussels on Wednesday.
May’s motion seeking a delay until June 30 was approved 420-110, with the opposition Labour Party supporting it.
However, there was a significant rebellion among Conservative MPs – 97 voted against any request to delay, and 80 abstained.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, also refused to back a delay, along with three Labour MPs.
MPs passed a bill on Monday forcing the prime minister to seek approval from the House of Commons before requesting a Brexit delay.
The prime minister will now travel to the European Council summit in Brussels, where she will formally request that European Union leaders grant her a 2-1/2-month delay to Britain’s exit from the EU.
May’s request is unlikely to be accepted, however, with EU leaders reportedly preparing to insist that Britain must instead accept a longer delay, of up to a year.
A delay beyond May 22 would not need further approval from the Commons.
Leaked internal discussions suggest the European Council is likely to insist that Britain takes part in the European Parliament elections next month and promise not to use its veto while it remains a member.
The prime minister is due to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening to discuss her plans. Macron has been the most publicly resistant to granting an extension.
May had been hoping to secure broad agreement for a deal with Labour before the summit. But talks between the two parties ended on Tuesday with no sign of a deal.
A representative for the prime minister said on Tuesday afternoon: “We have had further productive and wide-ranging talks this afternoon, and the parties have agreed to meet again on Thursday once European Council has concluded.
“We remain completely committed to delivering on Brexit, with both sides working hard to agreeing a way forward, appreciating the urgency in order to avoid European elections.”
May’s fate in Europe’s hands
May’s dash to Europe comes as the Conservative Party officially begins its preparations for the European Parliament elections.
“Due to the current situation we will be contesting the European elections on May 23,” party officials emailed prospective Conservative candidates this week.
David Lidington, May’s deputy, also laid a legal order on Monday to allow the elections to go ahead. Weeks ago, the prime minister suggested she would resign rather than allow a long extension.
The Conservatives fear being hit badly in elections by any decision to delay Brexit. Robert Hayward, an elections expert, predicted that the party would suffer a significant Brexit penalty in May’s local elections.
Smaller opposition parties are also expecting to benefit from public dissatisfaction with both major parties at the European elections.
Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party leader, is hoping to make gains with his new Brexit party, and pro-European former Labour and Conservative MPs in The Independent Group are also expected to stand candidates.
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