EU's Verhofstadt: EU must increase pressure on Britain over Brexit

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Lawmaker Andrew Bridgen accused her of pursuing a "scorched earth" policy of destroying all other Brexit options to leave lawmakers with a choice between her deal and a long delay.

After a series of Parliamentary defeats, British Prime Minister Theresa May grudgingly gave lawmakers a chance to delay Brexit. They defeated by the narrowest of margins an opposition attempt to let Parliament choose an alternative to May's rejected divorce deal and force the government to negotiate it with the EU. Earlier on Thursday, lawmakers voted by 334 to 85 against a second referendum on European Union membership. "How many votes have there been, and every time it's a negative majority, a majority against something". The vote didn't prevent lawmakers from trying again later to get Parliament's support for another referendum.

Today Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox could revisit his legal advice on whether Britain would be trapped in the Irish backstop "indefinitely" - unlocking votes for Mrs May's deal.

May also needs to win over the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has so far refused to back her plan. Parliament voted it down twice, and May looks set to put it to a third vote next week. May has ruled that out, but could come to see it as her only option.

If the delay is approved next week, May hopes to use it to enact legislation needed for Britain's departure.


But Mrs May, who stressed in the wake of the vote that a no-deal Brexit was still on the table, said lawmakers would need to agree a way forward before an extension could be obtained from Brussels.

"But I think we also have to explore other options". Officials and national leaders in the bloc are exasperated at the events in London.

"Under no circumstances an extension in the dark!"

For the business community, including the entertainment industry, Thursday's vote does not change their immediate status but prolongs the uncertainty they have faced over the past three years, since the 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters made a decision to pull their country out of the European Union. With the approaching deadline intensifying fears that Britain could leave the bloc without a deal - a move that economists say could spark economic turmoil - the U.K. Parliament voted Wednesday to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May said she would prefer a short delay, which would mean the government trying to pass the deal she negotiated with the European Union by the middle of next week. The EU, meanwhile, is reluctant to postpone Brexit beyond the late May elections for the European Parliament, because that would mean Britain taking part even as it prepares to leave.

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