Europe

British MPs overwhelmingly support Brexit delay, vote against second referendum

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In a blow to campaigners for a so-called People’s Vote, MPs in the UK Parliament have voted for Prime Minister Theresa May to ask the European Union for a delay to Brexit.

The British Parliament has voted to ask for a delay to the UK's exit from the European Union in a bid for more time to get squabbling lawmakers behind a deal on the terms of the withdrawal.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU on March 29, but Thursday evening's 412-202 vote in Parliament would push Brexit back to at least June 30, providing that the rest of the 27 EU countries agree to the delay.

The EU will demand that the UK specify how the additional time will be used to finalise a withdrawal agreement, and it may demand a longer postponement.

Lawmakers approved by nearly 200 votes a motion setting out the option to have a short delay by agreeing to a Brexit deal by March 20, or a longer delay if no deal can be agreed in time.

Three years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, MPs also voted massively against delaying Brexit, in order to hold a second referendum, dashing the hopes of pro-European campaigners who want a new public vote.

Only 85 MPs voted in favour of the amendment and 334 voted against, with most lawmakers from the main opposition Labour Party abstaining from the vote.

An attempt by Parliament to wrench control of Brexit from the Conservative government's hands in order to break the country's deadlock over leaving the European Union was also rejected.

The third evening of Brexit votes in the Commons came after MPs rejected Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement by a 149-vote margin on Tuesday and then inflicted further defeat on the PM on Wednesday by voting to rule out a no-deal outcome.

For the business community, including the entertainment industry, Thursday's vote does not change their immediate status but prolongs the uncertainty they have faced over the past three years, since the 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters decided to pull their country out of the European Union.

Since then, the value of the British pound has plummeted, and companies have begun making contingency plans for a post-Brexit world in which European workers cannot easily move to Britain, tariffs might be resurrected and trade becomes harder.

Some entertainment businesses have begun hedging their bets, particularly the television industry.

A handful of international channels operators, including Discovery and NBCUniversal, have begun shifting their European licenses out of Britain to other countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, to ensure that the permits will still be valid throughout the rest of Europe after Brexit.

Up till now, a Britain-issued license has been good in the rest of the EU.

Thursday's vote in the House of Commons capped three days of chaos and humiliation for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has struggled to get even her own Conservative Party lawmakers to back her proposed Brexit deal, let alone the opposition Labour Party and smaller groupings.

On Tuesday, Parliament overwhelmingly rejected May's framework deal for the second time in three months, and on Wednesday, it voted to forbid her from pulling Britain out of the European Union with no deal at all, a scenario that most business and political leaders warn would precipitate economic disaster.

If Britain were to "crash out" of the EU in that way, it would be forced to trade with many other nations under less favorable World Trade Organisation rules.

It's possible May might bring her plan to Parliament for yet a third vote next week if she is able to forge a compromise with the dissenters in her ranks. But critics called that an absurd course of action.

"The idea of bringing back the deal for a third time, without even the pretense that anything has changed, other than of course using up more time, is an act of desperation," Keir Starmer, a Labour spokesman, said.

Source Reuters - SBS, AFP - SBS, AAP - SBS

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