British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for leaving the European Union for a third time on Friday.
The rejection leaves big questions about Britain’s next move on the day the country was supposed to cancel its EU membership.
The decision to reject a simpler version of May’s deal has left it unclear how, when or even whether Britain will leave the political and economic union.
After a special meeting of parliament, lawmakers voted 344 to 286 against May’s EU withdrawal agreement.
Within minutes of the vote, European Council President Donald Tusk said EU leaders would meet on April 10 to discuss Britain’s withdrawal.
The European Commission said that it is likely the two sides will be unable to negotiate a deal over the next two weeks.
May had told parliament the vote was the last chance to ensure Britain’s exit, or Brexit, would take place. She warned that if the deal failed, then any additional delay to Brexit would probably be a long one.
“I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House,” May told parliament after the defeat. “The implications of the House’s decision are grave.”
“The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12th April,” she said.
It was a third failure for May, who offered on Wednesday to resign as prime minister if the deal passed. She made the offer to win over members of her Conservative Party who support a more decisive break with the EU than her deal offers.
With no majority in parliament for any Brexit plan so far, it is unclear what May will now do. Possible choices include asking the EU for a long delay, calling new elections, or what is being called a “no-deal” exit.
May’s spokesman said she would press on with talks with opponents of the deal.
Britain now has under two weeks to persuade the EU’s 27 other members that it has a way to end the dispute. If that fails, Britain will leave the union on April 12 with no deal on future ties with its largest trading ally.
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking as parliament voted, said the EU needed to speed up planning on a no-deal exit.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that unless Britain came up with a plan, there would be a “hard” Brexit.
One of the two paths to an orderly Brexit seems now to be closed, said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte “This leaves only the other route, which is for the British to make clear what they want before April 12.”
“The risk of a no-deal Brexit is very real,” he added.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
George Grow wrote this story from reports by Reuters and VOA. Mario Ritter Jr. edited it.
Words in This Story
implication – n. a suggestion; close connection
grave – adj. serious
route – n. an established path; a line of travel
default – n. failure to do something required
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