British MPs reject a no-deal Brexit. Now, will the U.K.’s departure be delayed?

by - 3 min read

British MPs reject a no-deal Brexit. Now, will the U.K.’s departure be delayed?

by - 3 min read

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Britain’s Parliament has voted to reject the country leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement, a decision that lessens but does not remove the chance of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit.

The vote Wednesday also increases the chances that Britain’s exit from the bloc will be delayed.

British MPs voted 312 to 308 for a motion that “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship.”

The vote has political, but not legal, force.

A no-deal Brexit could still happen unless Britain and the EU ratify a divorce agreement or Britain decides to cancel its departure. Parliament’s next step, in a vote Thursday, will be to seek a delay of that looming departure date.

Fears arose Wednesday that Britain would crash out of the bloc on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement to smooth the way.

Bracing for chaos

Residents, businesses and politicians across Britain and the bloc braced for a chaotic Brexit after British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement for a second time by a decisive 391-242 vote on Tuesday.

The British prime minister who set the Brexit process in motion warned that leaving the European Union without a deal would be disastrous for the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

David Cameron on Wednesday said a “no-deal” scenario “would be a disaster for our country,” and urged members of Parliament to rule out leaving the EU without an agreement.

As Britain teeters ever closer to the edge of the Brexit cliff, it’s far from clear if MPs in Britain’s divided and squabbling Parliament can agree on a way forward. There are competing factions that support May’s deal, a “softer” deal that would keep close ties with the EU, a no-deal Brexit, or even a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Cameron said he fully supports Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempts to maintain a “close partnership” with Europe after Britain leaves the EU.

He also recommended seeking an extension to the March 29 deadline.

Cameron resigned after failing to convince British voters to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum. He called the referendum to settle an internal Conservative Party dispute, but ended up losing his office.

Flow of goods across Irish border

Meanwhile, the U.K. government has said it won’t impose new checks and controls on goods at the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border if the U.K. leaves the EU without an agreement on future relations.

The policy is part of temporary tariff regime unveiled Wednesday and set to last for up to 12 months.

As part of the plan, the government said there would be no tariffs on 87 per cent of imports by value, a “modest liberalization” compared with current trade rules.

A mixture of tariffs and quotas will apply to beef, lamb, pork, poultry and some dairy “to support farmers and producers who have historically been protected through high EU tariffs.”

Rejection of deal ‘reckless’

Germany’s foreign minister said the U.K. Parliament’s rejection of the Brexit deal was “reckless.” Heiko Maas said the EU made “far-reaching additional offers and assurances” at Britain’s request this week.

In remarks released late Tuesday, Maas said the decision to reject the deal “brings a no-deal scenario ever closer.”

He said “whoever rejects the agreement plays with the welfare of their citizens and the economy in a reckless way.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday called on U.K. members of Parliament to rule out a no-deal Brexit “decisively and for all time.”

Criticism in U.K. headlines

The decision to reject the deal for a second time dominated European media headlines on Wednesday.

A headline in the French newspaper Liberation said Brexit is “back to square one,” while German broadcaster n-tv noted “disappointment and incomprehension in Brussels.”

Russian broadcaster RU-24 reported in its morning bulletin that “the British aren’t showing any signs of panic half-a-month before the key date.”

The headline in the Daily Mail called Parliament, “The house of fools.”

The Guardian’s headline referred to “another huge defeat for May.”

“How much more of this can Britain take?” asked the Express.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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