It’s a vote she never wanted held in the first place. It’s for a plan that will almost certainly be rendered moot when the EU rejects it Wednesday. And it provides more evidence that her Conservative Party is ripping apart at the seams. But still, Parliament approved one of Theresa May’s Brexit proposals! Good for her.
Today’s vote: The House of Commons voted 420–110 in favor of Theresa May’s plan to ask the EU to delay Brexit until June 30. (The currently deadline is April 12, this Friday.) May wants this “short” delay, since anything longer would require Britain to take part in European Union elections.
May had to bring this to a vote because of a bill passed last week, requiring her to ask for an extension and giving Parliament the right to approve the date she asked for. Ninety-seven Tory MPs voted against the extension, so May had to rely on the support of the opposition Labour Party and smaller parties. Yet more evidence that, no matter how this week’s high-stakes drama unfolds, the Conservatives are deeply, perhaps irreparably fractured over Brexit.
Today in Europe: In addition to the vote in London, May dashed across the continent Tuesday, meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to convince them to back her delay request.
But for all that, the plan is probably dead on arrival. In a letter inviting leaders to Wednesday’s emergency EU leader summit, European Council President Donald Tusk warned that “granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates.” In an indictment of the British government’s actions so far, he added that the “experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June.”
Today’s buzzword: “Flextension!” Rather than granting May’s request, Tusk is urging EU leaders to offer a longer extension that “would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year.” (A draft agreement circulated to EU members ahead of Wednesday’s meeting refers more vaguely to a time period “no longer than XX.XX.XXXX.”)
In other words, Brexit could kick in immediately as soon as May is able to win parliamentary approval for the withdrawal agreement that has now been rejected three times. (May is currently attempting to win cross-party support for her deal in cross-party talks with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn but reports have not been encouraging.)
A number of European leaders, Macron in particular, have been reluctant to agree to a long extension, fearing the disruptions that could result from letting a U.K. with one foot out the door continue to be a full member in the union, as well as dreading the way the Brexit issue would continue to overshadow everything else on the EU agenda. But it now appears the French are softening their stance a bit.
The backlash May has already faced from her own party over sitting down with Corbyn and asking for a delay is likely nothing compared to what she’ll get if it looks like Britain is remaining in the EU for another year.
Of course, this is all assuming the other 27 EU countries actually do agree to an extension—short or long—at their summit Wednesday. If they don’t, Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal at 11 p.m. GMT on Friday, an outcome that the IMF warns Tuesday will plunge the British economy into recession under even the mildest scenario.
Days until next deadline: XX. (Just kidding, it’s 3.)