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British MPs rule out new EU referendum and back delaying Brexit

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Britain is to ask the European Union (EU) to delay its departure from the bloc until at least June 30 after MPs voted on Thursday in which they also rejected a second referendum.

British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a number of challenging votes in the House of Commons, and won them all, including one by a majority of just two.

If EU member states agree to the delay, it will mean Britain not leaving on its scheduled departure date of March 29.

The British government wants the three-month delay to enable MPs to vote for a third time next week on May’s Brexit deal, already rejected twice by overwhelming margins.

If the prime minister’s deal is again rejected it could mean Britain remaining in the EU beyond the end of June. Remaining in the EU beyond June 30 would mean Britain having to take part in this May’s European Parliament elections.

The historic chamber of the House of Commons was packed for the third time this week as opposing sides in the Battle for Brexit gathered.

May arrived in the Commons chamber to face a number of challenges, having been battered twice this week in crushing defeats.

But in a sign that the tide may, just be turning, May and her government saw off the challenges.

The first to fall by a margin of 334 to 85 was a bid by MP Sarah Wollaston for a second public referendum.

Next came what had been billed as the biggest threat to May’s strategy, an amendment by veteran Labour MP Hilary Benn.

He wanted time to be set aside next week to enable MPs to debate a range of Brexit options with indicative votes.

The idea was to see if there was any consensus among MPs for an alternative to May’s twice-defeated Brexit plan.

That lost by 314 to 312, a wafer thin margin of just two.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, was next on, with a bid to reject May’s deal, reject a no-deal option and delay Britain’s departure date to enable an alternative deal to be found.

That was beaten by 318 to 302.

It all came down to the main government motion to seek to delay Brexit until at least June 30.

That won by 412 to 202.

After the chaos in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and a massive defeat for her deal this week, the mood was more somber as May as her advisors must have breathed a sigh of relief.

It’s not yet over for May who must now return to the House of Commons next week to have another attempt at gaining support for the deal agreed last July at her country mansion house retreat, Chequers.

If May manages to get the go-ahead for her deal next week, Britain will leave the EU by June 30. It would require the thumbs up for the leaders of all 27 EU member states.

But they are unlikely to refuse if the purpose for the delay is to enable all the legislative processes to be completed.

May lost by margins of 230 and almost 150 in the previous attempts to get MPs to back her deal.

So in the space of a few days, can she really overturn such as massive margin?

Media reports say British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox have been holding private meetings with the strongest opponents to May’s deal, mainly the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland and members of the pro-Brexit Conservative MPs from the European Research Group (ERG).

If those politicians can be convinced that Britain will not be trapped permanently to EU rules, it could give a turbo boost to May’s Brexit deal.

May’s closest allies and advisors are relying on MPs from across the political divides realizing that if May’s deal is defeated, the most likely option is Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal or remaining in the bloc for years, and possibly even for ever.

That, in the view of many parliamentarians, would be viewed as treachery in the eyes of the voting public.

Ahead of the June 2016 referendum, ordered by May’s predecessor David Cameron, the people of Britain were offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to decide whether to stay in the EU or leave.

Against all expectations, the country voted by a 53-48 margin to leave.

Even Remain supporting MPs say the will of the people must be respected.

Two thirds of MPs backed remain in the referendum, and have had to come to terms that the majority of citizens wanted out of the EU.

Critics have accused many MPs of using every trick in the book to keep Britain in the EU by any means.

Despite strong opposition and an almost pathological hatred of May’s deal, many British people fear it might end up in being trapped indefinitely in the European Union.


British MPs vote to seek Article 50 extension

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British MPs on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to ask the European Union (EU) for an extension to Article 50 in the trouble Brexit process.

They voted in the House of Commons by 412 to 202, a majority of 210, to request the EU agreement for delaying the Brexit until June 30.

Earlier, MPs rejected an amendment calling for a second Brexit referendum.

It was the first time the question of a new public referendum had faced a parliamentary vote since the first referendum was conducted in June 2016.

The vote outcome came with only 15 days to go before Britain leaves the EU on March 29.

British MPs reject calls for second Brexit referendum

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British MPs on Thursday voted to reject an amendment calling for a second Brexit referendum.

MPs voted by 85 to 334, a majority of 249, to turn down the amendment which calls for a delayed Brexit to allow new referendum.

The vote started in the House of Commons at 1700 GMT on Thursday after MPs completely rejected a no-deal Brexit at any time, further weakening the authority of British Prime Minister Theresa May and her government.

Speaker John Bercow infuriated MPs by allowing the vote, drawing outcry from Brexiteers in the House of Commons.

The amendment was put to vote in a bid to give the British public a second referendum on Brexit in order to break the present deadlock of the trouble process.

Currently, MPs are voting on amendment to request a delay of Brexit from March 29 to June 30.

British people voted in a referendum in June 2016 to leave the European Union.

British businesses support Brexit delay, but urge for MPs consensus

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- After British MPs voted on Thursday to ask the European Union (EU) for an extension to Article 50, British businesses have voiced their support to Brexit delay, but urged the MPs to reach consensus.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that most businesses supported an extension to Article 50 to avert a messy and disorderly exit, but "with just two weeks to go, this vote leaves firms with no real clarity on the future."

Marshall said businesses were waiting for Parliament to reach a consensus, but businessmen "are losing faith that they will achieve this."

"Firms are continuing to enact their contingency plans, anxiety amongst many businesses is rising, and customers are being lost," said Marshall, adding that "businesses, jobs, investment and our communities are still firmly in the danger zone."

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: "without a radically new approach, business fears this is simply a stay of execution."

Hardie urged MPs to have an urgent duty to put in place a process, saying that "both main parties must make meaningful moves to find consensus, not simply double-down on their red lines or put hopes of power ahead of the country."

"Now is the time for those who champion leadership through compromise to show courage," Hardie said.

Andrew Gray, head of Brexit at PwC, said: "some businesses may see today’s news as a reason to slow down on their preparations for the imminent threat of no-deal, but an extension is not yet a done deal."

"The legal default remains that the UK leaves on 29 March, with or without a deal, and that is what businesses need to prepare for," Gray said.

"Businesses must not take their foot off the gas, and we urge all organizations to keep preparing for both a deal and no-deal scenario," Gray added.

Clock resetting not enough for breaking Brexit impasse

by Xinhua writers Gu Zhenqiu, Gui Tao and Yang Xiaojing LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British lawmakers on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to endorse delaying Brexit beyond March 29, sending Prime Minister Theresa May to seek a green light from the European Union (EU) for extending the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.

The MPs voted 413-202 to put off Brexit until June 30 if a Brexit agreement is struck with Brussels. If there is no deal, a longer extension will be possible.

The voting was an attempt to reset the clock, but the gap over Brexit across the English Channel remains unnarrowed, and differences between the British government and parliament stay unbridged.

With the latest vote, the final decision on whether to grant Britain a delay rests with leaders of the other 27 EU countries who will discuss the matter at a Brussels summit on March 21.

Over the past three days, MPs, in a series of non-binding votes in the House of Commons, succeeded in avoiding a no-deal Brexit in any scenario.

A no-deal divorce is the last thing both London and Brussels are willing to see as it is expected to inflict heavy economic damage on both Britain and the EU, not to mention disrupting supply chains, and causing chaos in ports, airports and on border roads.

As long as London has a plan, the EU is ready to extend Article 50, which sets out how an EU country might voluntarily leave the regional body.

But Britain must offer a "credible" reason for a Brexit extension, according to Donald Tusk, the European Council president. The view is shared by leaders from most of the EU states.

How can a British explanation be considered "credible"?

How long should the Brexit process be delayed?

Will the cost to the EU be reduced by a longer extension?

These are among major issues to be settled.

New problems are piled upon old ones as MPs criticized May for not doing enough to meet their demand over the Irish backstop, a key sticking point in the Brexit negotiations over the past two and a half years.

Thursday’s voting results also vindicated statements that the country remains divided over Brexit.

May’s cabinet and her Conservative Party are not united.

The cabinet splintered yet again and eight cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, voted against the government’s motion on extending Article 50.

In total, more than half of Tory MPs voted against the motion.

Tusk urged EU members to be "open" to a longer delay, but time is running out for May, who has to stay alert against a possible race in her Conservative Party to replace her.

The prime minister’s authority has been undermined as her Brexit deal has been rejected twice by parliament since January, which has also weakened her hand in Brussels talks.

The trust crisis facing May has intensified as she has been gradually losing control of the painful Brexit process. With televised rifts in parliament and protests on the street, there has been no consensus so far on how to break the current Brexit deadlock.

Politicians in London need tolerance and trust to break the impasse.

But the British people are running out of patience.

European Union’s chief negotiator defines Brexit as lose-lose situation

BUCHAREST Romania (Xinhua) -- The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday defined the UK exit from the Union a lose-lose situation, stressing that no one could prove any positive thing Brexit can bring.

Barnier made his remarks at a debate at the European Summit of Regions and Cities that takes place here on Thursday and Friday, at the Palace of Parliament.

According to the chief negotiator, Brexit has no added value and no one, and further claimed that not even Nigel Farage, key promoter of Brexit in UK, has so far been able to demonstrate what positive thing the move could bring.

Barnier expressed his regret that the British Parliament once again vetoed the withdrawal agreement, stressing that this would make things even more complicated.

However, the official noted that he respects the decision taken by the majority of the British people.

He underscored that during the 18 months of negotiations, he has struggled to have an agreement with the British people and not an agreement against them.

According to him, the priority will have to be the fate of the 4.5 million citizens directly affected by Brexit, including 3.5 million people from EU member countries living or working in the UK and nearly 1 million British citizens in the European Union (EU).

Before arriving in Bucharest, the European official was quoted as saying that the EU has reached a critical point with regard to Brexit and that the solution must be found by London.

With just half a month left before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, the British parliament rejected the Withdrawal Agreement with EU and the no-deal Brexit on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

European Commission welcomes lawmakers’ adoption
of contingency measures for "no-deal" Brexit

BRUSSELS Belgium (Xinhua) -- The European Commission welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of contingency measures for a "no-deal" Brexit, the Commission said Thursday in a statement.

This will help ensure that the EU is fully ready for a "no-deal" scenario on March 29, it said.

The proposals adopted include ensuring for a limited period basic air, road and rail connectivity in a "no-deal" scenario, as well as allowing for continued reciprocal fishing access for EU and UK fisheries until the end of 2019 and for the provision of compensation to fishermen and operators in such a scenario.

The European Union has been preparing for a "no-deal" scenario since December 2017. To date, the European Commission has tabled 19 legislative proposals.

Of those, 17 proposals have been adopted or agreed by the parliament and the Council. Formal adoption of all those files by the Council will take place shortly. Two proposals are still pending.

The EU’s contingency measures will not—and cannot—mitigate the overall impact of a "no-deal" scenario, the Commission statement said.

These proposals are temporary in nature, limited in scope and will be adopted unilaterally by the EU. They are not "mini-deals" and have not been negotiated with Britain, it said.


British Business leaders call for taking 'No-Deal' option off table

Blow for Theresa May as lawmakers again reject her Brexit deal



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