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What is Britain's next move on Brexit?

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected this week to try to persuade parliament to approve her Brexit deal at the third time of asking, before heading to Brussels to request a short delay to the withdrawal process.

FILE PHOTO: A person walks over a bridge with the Houses of Parliament in the background, in London, Britain January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

In three days of high-stakes voting in parliament last week, lawmakers determined that they did not support May’s exit deal, did not want to leave the European Union without any deal, and wanted a delay to the March 29 exit day to resolve the impasse.

May has told lawmakers they have two choices: back my deal and face a short delay, or reject it and face a much longer one.

Here’s what is expected to happen in the coming days:


May has said her preference is for short delay to Brexit. This means, according to her own assessment, that she needs to hold a third vote in Britain’s 650-seat parliament on her deal before an EU summit on March 21-22.

That gives her until Wednesday to overturn the 149-vote defeat she suffered on March 12.

On Sunday, trade minister Liam Fox said it would be difficult to justify holding a third vote if the government knew if was going to lose. Some have suggested the vote could yet take place after the EU summit.


When EU heads of government meet in Brussels on Thursday, May will use the summit to request an extension to the two-year Brexit negotiating period that is due to end on March 29.

The outcome of these talks will be determined by whether or not parliament has approved May’s deal, and what conditions the EU attaches to a delay. Any delay requires agreement of all other 27 EU members.


If May’s deal is rejected again, ministers have warned that the EU is only likely to agree to a longer delay, and that an alternative approach to Brexit would need to be found.

In this scenario, her government has said it is willing to find a way to allow parliament to seek a majority for an alternative path.

The government has not yet been specific about how this would work, but a sizeable contingent of lawmakers wants it to involve holding a series of “indicative votes” on different options in order to determine which, if any, could command majority support in the House of Commons.

Reporting by William James; Editing by Mark Heinrich