The Latest: UK Parliament votes to hold May to Brexit vow
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the negotiations on Brexit (all times local):
Britain’s Parliament has underscored Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise to give lawmakers a vote on whether to delay Brexit rather than leave the European Union at the end of March without a divorce deal.
The House of Commons voted 502 to 20 on Wednesday in favor of a motion backing May’s commitment to hand lawmakers a say in the Brexit process if she can’t win backing for her withdrawal deal by March 12.
May said Tuesday that lawmakers would get to vote March 13 on whether to leave the EU with no deal, and to vote again the next day on whether to seek to postpone the scheduled Brexit day of March 29.
Wednesday’s vote in the House of Commons was a symbolic move designed to ensure the government doesn’t try to wriggle out of the promise.
The government did not oppose the amendment. Some pro-Brexit lawmakers, who fear a delay could be used to try to stop Brexit altogether, abstained.
Britain has agreed to guarantee the rights of European Union citizens in the country, even if it leaves the bloc without a divorce deal.
An agreement struck between the U.K. and the bloc says 3 million EU citizens in Britain and 1 million U.K. nationals in other EU nations can continue their lives undisturbed after Brexit.
But the deal has not been approved by Britain’s Parliament, leaving a question mark over the citizens’ status just a month before the scheduled Brexit day of March 29.
On Wednesday, the Conservative government agreed that Prime Minister Theresa May will seek a joint U.K.-EU commitment on citizens’ rights, whether or not the Brexit deal is approved.
The move had gained wide support across the political spectrum, and the government agreed to support it to avoid an embarrassing defeat in Parliament.
Britain has struck a deal through the World Trade Organization for a post-Brexit world, inking plans to stay part of a market for lucrative government contracts with dozens of trading partners.
The accord reached Wednesday paves the way for Britain to retain its place among 47 WTO countries that are involved in the Government Procurement Agreement, including the European Union’s 28 and soon to be 27 members.
The arrangement ensures continuity of cross-border bidding for big-ticket government contracts, though military contracts are generally excluded.
A Geneva-based trade official said the agreement was a relatively straightforward step but also important for ensuring access to a combined market valued at over $1.7 trillion.
Britain still faces unresolved issues when it comes to access for its goods and services markets after its withdrawal from the EU scheduled for March 29.
French President Emmanuel Macron says Britain needs a good reason to seek a delay of its scheduled March 29 departure from the European Union.
Speaking in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris Wednesday, Macron reiterated that the withdrawal agreement “cannot be renegotiated.”
Any delay request would need to be justified by “a clear perspective on the goal,” he said. “We don’t need time, we need decisions.”
Merkel said that Germany and France “agree completely” that the already-negotiated withdrawal agreement stands.
“If Britain needs a bit more time, we will not refuse that, but we are aiming for an orderly solution — an orderly withdrawal by the British from the European Union,” she said.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier is holding out the possibility that Britain can still exit the European Union in an orderly fashion.
Barnier said in an interview on Wednesday with FranceInfo radio that “I think we can save this accord” but that it’s up to Britain to take responsibility.
Barnier said: “It’s not correct to say that a no-deal is the most probable” outcome. “It’s a possibility. It’s not yet a probability.”
If British lawmakers agree to seek an extension of the March 29 exit date, the 27 other countries in the EU must unanimously agree. He said everyone must be sure that extending negotiations won’t still lead to the impasse facing both sides today.
He added that he sees no “added value” in Britain’s departure. “Brexit is lose-lose.”
The Czech Parliament has approved a government plan to guarantee the short-term rights of British citizens in the country in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.
The lower house approved the plan in January, and the upper house, or the Senate, followed suit in a 72-1 vote on Wednesday.
The plan means that the roughly 8,000 Britons currently living in the country would retain their rights immediately after Brexit, even if Britain crashes out of the EU in March with no deal. They would retain basically the same rights as citizens of EU countries for a transitional period until Dec. 31, 2020.
“The goal of the law is to prevent serious complications” those Britons might face, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told lawmakers.
They would retain basically the same rights as citizens of EU countries for a transitional period until Dec. 31, 2020.
A senior German official says Berlin would want to see “something substantially new” put on the table to justify delaying Brexit.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will give British lawmakers a choice of approving her divorce agreement, leaving the EU March 29 without a deal or asking to delay Brexit by up to three months. A delay would require other EU members’ approval.
Michael Roth, a German deputy foreign minister, told ZDF television Wednesday that “for us as the German government, it is important that something substantially new be put on the table that justifies a delay.”
He added that “if we can really achieve something new with a delay, and if we then reach a sensible decision, we are the last people who will stand in the way.”
The head of one of Britain’s biggest business organizations says Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to allow lawmakers to delay the country’s exit from the European Union provides an “option on sanity.”
May on Tuesday said Parliament will get the chance to delay Britain’s scheduled March 29 departure if lawmakers fail to approve the divorce agreement with the bloc.
Confederation of British Industry head Carolyn Fairbairn told the BBC on Wednesday that neither business nor the government is ready to leave, and exiting without a deal would be “a wrecking ball on our economy.”
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay refused to take the possibility of a no-deal Brexit off the table, however, telling the BBC: “It will be for Parliament to decide.”