By Madeline Farber
Published March 14, 2019
The British Parliament voted Thursday to delay Brexit.
In a 412-202 vote, the House of Commons chose to postpone the U.K.'s departure for at least three months beyond the scheduled March 29 departure from the E.U. The extension has to be approved by all of the 27 remaining E.U. countries, however.
The news comes after Parliament voted to reject the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (E.U.) without a withdrawal agreement on Wednesday. But the 312-308 vote was largely symbolic and had no legal force.
Both votes come after British Prime Minister Theresa May was dealt another devastating blow after her updated Brexit deal failed to persuade the British Parliament to pledge their support on Tuesday, nearly two months after suffering the largest defeat in House of Commons history.
May has been pushing a plan that lists the terms of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union for more than two years — since the country's historic 2016 referendum that resulted in the decision to depart the E.U. In January, members of Parliament voted 432-202 against May's deal, said to be the largest defeat in House of Commons history.
It’s possible the country could leave the bloc without a deal, which economists have warned could have devastating effects on the British economy.
The deal has continued to face deep opposition from both sides of Britain's divide over Europe.
Here’s what you need to know about Brexit and the departure agreement.
Brexit — or “British Exit” — refers to the U.K.’s choice to leave the E.U., which is an “economic and political partnership” that currently consists of 28 countries in Europe, according to the BBC.
A list of countries that are part of the E.U. can be found here.
May and other U.K. leaders have worked with the E.U. to negotiate and agree on the terms of the country’s exit from the E.U., the BBC reported.
Negotiations between the two sides have led to a 585-page withdrawal agreement. The agreement, in part, details the terms of the U.K.’s departure from the E.U.
Namely, this includes how much money the U.K. is required to pay the E.U., (estimated £39 billion or more than $49 billion), what will happen to the E.U. citizens living in the U.K. and vice versa, and how to prevent a physical 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland “when it becomes the frontier between the U.K. and the E.U.,” the BBC reported. This has also been referred to as the “backstop plan.”
The E.U. says that there can be no deal without the backstop to guarantee an open border along the U.K.'s only land frontier with an E.U. member state. But pro-Brexit supporters say this part of the agreement will bind the U.K. to many E.U. laws, CNBC previously reported.
Since her devastating defeat in January, May said she's secured a joint declaration from the European Union, U.K. and Northern Ireland that "commits to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements" by the end of 2020, according to the BBC.
"The Parties recall their determination to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing," the March political declaration states.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington says changes to a portion of the deal regarding the Irish border should overcome lawmakers' concerns about a mechanism in the deal designed to keep an open border between Britain's Northern Ireland and E.U. member Ireland.
The new guarantee "provides confirmation that the E.U. cannot try to trap the U.K. in the backstop indefinitely," Lidington explained.
British lawmakers voted March 14 to delay Brexit, just 15 days before the country is scheduled to leave the E.U. The House of Commons voted by 412-202 in favor of seeking to postpone the U.K.'s departure for at least three months beyond the scheduled March 29 departure from the E.U.
The motion commits Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government to seek an extension until June 30 if Parliament approves a U.K.-E.U. withdrawal deal next week. British lawmakers have already rejected May's E.U. divorce deal twice and if it fails a third time, the government says the U.K. is looking at a much longer delay to Brexit.
Any extension to Brexit has to be approved by all 27 remaining EU countries.
The vote came after Parliament voted March 13 to reject having the country leave the European Union without a divorce agreement, a decision that lessens but does not remove the chance of a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit. The vote came after British lawmakers voted against May's updated Brexit deal a day prior.
May has previously warned that any delay could mean "we may never leave the E.U. at all."
The transition period is a period of time between March 29 and Dec. 21, 2020 that will allow businesses to adjust to the new rules between the U.K. and E.U. after Brexit formally begins.
But the transition period will only occur if a deal is met between the E.U. and U.K.
Economists warn that an abrupt break from the E.U. could batter the British economy and bring chaotic scenes at borders, ports and airports.
The British government has already reportedly started to plan for this potential outcome.