Parliament votes to extend Article 50

 Credit:  Kevin J. Frost
Credit: Kevin J. Frost

The UK’s Parliament has voted to ask the European Union (EU) for “a one-off extension to Article 50 ending 30 June 2019,” by a significant majority of 210 votes.

The extension will need to be agreed by all 27 of the other members of the EU at a meeting on 21 March. The EU will require a reason for the extension and will want to see a plan that will take the issue forward.

Prime Minister Theresa May will attempt, for a third time, to see her deal through and she will be putting pressure on the Brexiteer wing of her party to back her deal and the signs are that some of these Members of Parliament (MPs) will back her deal, but that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) may not, and that would be decisive.

Discussions with the DUP are ongoing, but no formal decision on the next vote has yet be announced.

Today’s votes saw three amendments debated and then voted on. The first was from Sarah Wollaston, the former Conservative MP and now a member of The Independent Group (TIG), who offered an amendment to the main motion requesting a second referendum.

The House of Commons rejected Wollaston’s amendment by 334 votes to 85, with some 25 Labour MPs voting for a second referendum in defiance of the party whip to abstain. Another 18 Labour MPs voted against the amendment, highlighting the divisions in the Labour party. In addition, 10 Conservative MPs abstained, defying May.

The next amendment, from Labour MP Hilary Benn, was to give cross-party backbenchers control of parliamentary time next Wednesday, 20 March, in order to arrange a series of indicative votes on alternative Brexit options. An addition to time-limit Benn’s amendment was defeated by three votes before Benn’s amendment itself was also defeated by just two votes, to the huge relief on the Conservative front bench.

The final amendment, offered by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, would have required the Government to make time for MPs to find a different approach to Brexit. This would prevent May from offering her Brexit deal again. Corbyn’s amendment was defeated by 318 to 302 votes.

Following the vote on the main motion of the day, which was carried by 412 votes to 202, Corbyn spoke to the House, arguing that, “May’s deal and no deal are simply no longer an option,” after this week’s votes. He ended by calling for a cross-party discussion to find a way forward and that any new approach should be put to a public vote to break the deadlock.

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.

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