The latest dramatic twist in the ongoing Brexit saga took another, though not entirely unexpected, turn late Wednesday when the House of Commons voted by a narrow 312 to 308 margin to issue a non-binding motion to reject leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place.
Though the motion has no legal teeth and the default legal position for the UK remains unchanged as it plans to quit the EU on 29 March, British parliamentarians will vote on Thursday whether the United Kingdom should apply for a Brexit delay which would move the date of Britain’s withdrawal from 29 March to undetermined date that would fall well before the European Union’s May elections.
Addressing the parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would vote in favour of taking a “no-deal” Brexit off the table, but with her second major defeat in as many days, May now has to deal with the reality that her position in the negotiating and withdrawal process has been severely weakened.
May said she will table a motion for a “short, limited, technical extension” of Article 50 – the provision in the EU Treaty that allows for a member to unilaterally withdraw from the bloc.
The leader of the opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, urged his fellow parliamentarians to “take charge” of the Brexit process and look for a way to build a consensus in the House of Commons.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, in his address to Parliament, revised the UK’s growth forecast from 1.6% of GDP to 1.2% and went on to request that the UK’s lawmakers reach “a compromise” on Brexit for the good of the economy.
“Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus across this House for a deal we can collectively support to exit the EU in an orderly way – towards a future relationship that will allow Britain to flourish, while still protecting jobs and businesses.”