British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons in London, Britain, on March 14, 2019. British MPs on Thursday voted to reject an amendment calling for a second Brexit referendum. (Xinhua/Han Yan)
Britain is to ask the European Union (EU) to delay its departure from the bloc until at least June 30 after MPs voted on Thursday in which they also rejected a second referendum.
British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a number of challenging votes in the House of Commons, and won them all, including one by a majority of just two.
If EU member states agree to the delay, it will mean Britain not leaving on its scheduled departure date of March 29.
The British government wants the three-month delay to enable MPs to vote for a third time next week on May's Brexit deal, already rejected twice by overwhelming margins.
If the prime minister's deal is again rejected it could mean Britain remaining in the EU beyond the end of June. Remaining in the EU beyond June 30 would mean Britain having to take part in this May's European Parliament elections.
ANOTHER LONG DAY IN PARLIAMENT
The historic chamber of the House of Commons was packed for the third time this week as opposing sides in the Battle for Brexit gathered.
May arrived in the Commons chamber to face a number of challenges, having been battered twice this week in crushing defeats.
But in a sign that the tide may, just be turning, May and her government saw off the challenges.
The first to fall by a margin of 334 to 85 was a bid by MP Sarah Wollaston for a second public referendum.
Next came what had been billed as the biggest threat to May's strategy, an amendment by veteran Labour MP Hilary Benn. He wanted time to be set aside next week to enable MPs to debate a range of Brexit options with indicative votes. The idea was to see if there was any consensus among MPs for an alternative to May's twice-defeated Brexit plan. That lost by 314 to 312, a wafer thin margin of just two.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, was next on, with a bid to reject May's deal, reject a no-deal option and delay Britain's departure date to enable an alternative deal to be found. That was beaten by 318 to 302.
It all came down to the main government motion to seek to delay Brexit until at least June 30. That won by 412 to 202.
A GOOD DAY FOR PM
After the chaos in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and a massive defeat for her deal this week, the mood was more somber as May as her advisors must have breathed a sigh of relief.
It's not yet over for May who must now return to the House of Commons next week to have another attempt at gaining support for the deal agreed last July at her country mansion house retreat, Chequers.
If May manages to get the go-ahead for her deal next week, Britain will leave the EU by June 30. It would require the thumbs up for the leaders of all 27 EU member states. But they are unlikely to refuse if the purpose for the delay is to enable all the legislative processes to be completed.
May lost by margins of 230 and almost 150 in the previous attempts to get MPs to back her deal. So in the space of a few days, can she really overturn such as massive margin?
Media reports say British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox have been holding private meetings with the strongest opponents to May's deal, mainly the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland and members of the pro-Brexit Conservative MPs from the European Research Group (ERG).
If those politicians can be convinced that Britain will not be trapped permanently to EU rules, it could give a turbo boost to May's Brexit deal.
WHAT IF MAY'S DEAL DEFEATED AGAIN?
May's closest allies and advisors are relying on MPs from across the political divides realizing that if May's deal is defeated, the most likely option is Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal or remaining in the bloc for years, and possibly even for ever.
That, in the view of many parliamentarians, would be viewed as treachery in the eyes of the voting public.
Ahead of the June 2016 referendum, ordered by May's predecessor David Cameron, the people of Britain were offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to decide whether to stay in the EU or leave.
Against all expectations, the country voted by a 53-48 margin to leave. Even Remain supporting MPs say the will of the people must be respected. Two thirds of MPs backed remain in the referendum, and have had to come to terms that the majority of citizens wanted out of the EU.
Critics have accused many MPs of using every trick in the book to keep Britain in the EU by any means. Despite strong opposition and an almost pathological hatred of May's deal, many British people fear it might end up in being trapped indefinitely in the European Union.