Theresa May survives vote of no-confidence

LIVE coverage of business in the House of Commons. Courtesy UK Parliament

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May's government saw off a vote of no confidence in parliament on Wednesday, brought after MPs overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the vote after Tuesday's crushing defeat for May over the EU divorce agreement -- but her Conservative MPs rallied behind her and the government won the confidence vote by 325 to 306, staving off the threat of a general election.

MPs on Tuesday rejected May's deal on leaving the European Union by a historic margin, leaving the Brexit process in disarray just over two months before the March 29 withdrawal date.

The scale of the defeat -- by 432 votes to 202 -- left Europe reeling, with various countries saying they would intensify preparations in case Britain crashes out with no deal at all.

But EU leaders also indicated the possibility of further talks, and there is an assumption among many European diplomats now that Brexit will have to be delayed.

May promised to reach out to other parties in parliament to find a consensus, promising to return with a new plan on Monday.

READ: What next for Brexit? Three main scenarios

Before then, however, she must overcome a confidence vote called by the main opposition Labour party, which is hoping to force an election.

Delay Brexit?

May expects to win the 7pm (1900 GMT) vote, as even the most vociferous critics of her Brexit deal in her Conservative party and among her Northern Irish allies have said they would support her.

Beforehand, she was taking no chances, however, refusing to indicate how she might compromise with opposition parties in the coming days.

May repeated two key principles -- limiting EU migration and pursuing an independent trade policy -- which would rule out Labour hopes of membership of an EU customs union or its single market.

But she hinted at the possibility of delaying Brexit, saying the EU would allow this "if it was clear that there was a plan towards moving towards an agreed deal".

EU officials have said extending the negotiating period could be possible but only until the newly-elected European Parliament meets in June.

However, May's Downing Street office denied any change in position, saying Brexit would happen in March as planned.

Source
AFP