UK lawmakers reject Brexit deal for third time

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May reacts after MPs rejected her EU withdrawal deal for a third time.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May reacts after MPs rejected her EU withdrawal deal for a third time.

AFP

LONDON - British MPs on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's EU divorce deal for a third time, opening the way for a long delay to Brexit -- or a potentially catastophic "no deal" withdrawal in two weeks.

Lawmakers in parliament's lower House of Commons defied May's plea to end the political deadlock that has plunged Britain into crisis, and defeated her withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286.

It is yet another blow to a prime minister who has all but lost control of her government and the Brexit process -- particularly after she offered to quit if MPs backed the deal.

READ: Britain to hold third vote in Brexit crisis

Britain had been due to leave the EU on Friday, the long-heralded March 29 "Independence Day", but faced with chaos in Westminster, May asked European leaders last week for a little more time.

She now faces having to return in the coming days to explain what happens next, with speculation in Brussels of an emergency summit on April 10 or 11.

The EU has set a deadline for April 12 for a decision, with two likely options: Britain leaves with no deal at all, or agrees a lengthy extension to allow time for a new approach.

May has said it would be "unacceptable" to ask voters to take part in forthcoming European Parliament elections, three years after they voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

READ: Third time lucky? May says she will quit if Brexit passes

But while "no deal" remains the default legal option, MPs have repeatedly voted against this, fearing catastrophe if Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no plan in place.

The failure by parliament to agree the terms of its exit from European Union has left Britain in limbo, with business leaders and trade unions warning of a "national emergency".

Voters are divided, many of them anxious and angry, and May blames MPs -- but they in turn accuse her of refusing to countenance any alternative to her unpopular deal.

Source
AFP