London, 4 April 2019 (MIA/dpa) – British parliamentarians late Wednesday narrowly approved a bill seeking to delay Brexit, as they attempt to avoid a no-deal exit from the European Union.
In a third reading, the House of Commons, parliament’s elected main house, voted by 313 votes to 312 in favour of forcing Prime Minister Theresa May to seek an extension of the current Brexit date of April 12.
The bill, which would require May to bring a motion to delay the date of Brexit, now needs to be approved by the upper house, the House of Lords. The European Union would also need to agree to a delay.
May met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday as she sought a last-minute consensus that would allow Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.
Downing Street said both sides were “showing flexibility” and would agree a “programme of work” late Wednesday before another full day of talks between their teams on Thursday.
“There hasn’t been as much change as I expected but we will have further discussions tomorrow to explore technical issues,” Corbyn said in a statement.
“I put forward the view from the Labour party that we want to achieve a customs union with the EU, access to the single market and dynamic regulatory alignment, that is, a guarantee of European regulations as a minimum on the environment, consumer and workers’ rights,” he said.
“I also raised the option of a public vote to prevent crashing out or leaving on a bad deal,” Corbyn added.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker earlier reiterated the EU’s position that Britain should get a Brexit deadline extension to May 22 if May can persuade lawmakers to approve her withdrawal agreement, which has already been rejected three times, in the next few days.
May said late Tuesday that she planned to ask Brussels for a further Brexit extension as she tries to avoid a no-deal outcome.
“If the United Kingdom is in a position to approve the withdrawal agreement with a sustainable majority by April 12, the EU should likewise in this case accept a delay until May 22,” said Juncker.
But if the deal falls again, “no further short extension will be possible,” he warned, citing the risk of jeopardizing the European Parliament elections in late May.
Those cut-offs are what EU leaders and May agreed to at the last EU summit two weeks ago, but British lawmakers remain deadlocked and have not been able to agree on an endgame.
Referencing that impasse, Juncker said that a “no-deal” scenario of Britain crashing out the bloc is now “very likely.”
Still, the EU “will not kick any member state out,” he said, adding, “I will personally do everything I can to prevent a disorderly Brexit.”
EU leaders are meeting at an emergency summit on April 10 and appear divided over whether they should offer May any more help.