Brexit in turmoil as May postpones Parliament vote on it
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday postponed Parliament's vote on her Brexit divorce deal with the European Union (EU), acknowledging that lawmakers would have rejected it by a "significant margin".
The move averted a humiliating defeat for the government in a vote that had been scheduled for Tuesday. But it throws Britain's Brexit plans into disarray, with the country's departure from the EU just over three months away on March 29.
In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, May accepted that British lawmakers had "widespread and deep concern" about some aspects of the divorce deal agreed upon last month between May and EU leaders.
"As a result, if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin," she said. "We will therefore defer the vote."
May said she would seek "assurances" from the EU and bring the Brexit deal back to Parliament, but did not set a new date for the vote.
Many lawmakers were scathing in their comments about both May's actions and the Brexit deal, and derisive laughter erupted when May claimed there was "broad support" for many aspects of the plan.
"The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray," said opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The pound, already foundering Monday amid rumours that the vote would be postponed, sank further on the news, hitting a 20-month low against the dollar at $1.2550.
May insisted that her Brexit deal was still "the best deal that is negotiable," and said rejecting it raised the chances of Britain crashing out of the EU with no agreement. That could bring logjams to British ports and plunge the country possibly into its deepest recession in decades, according to reports by the government and the Bank of England.
"For as long as we fail to agree a deal, the risk of an accidental 'no deal' increases," May said, adding that her government would step preparations for such an outcome so as to mitigate its worst effects.
Delaying the Brexit vote is a bracing new blow for May, who became prime minister after Britain's 2016 decision to leave the EU. She has been battling ever since - first to strike a divorce deal with the bloc, then to sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.
May's Conservative government does not have a majority in the House of Commons, and opposition parties - as well as dozens of Conservative lawmakers - said they would not back the divorce deal. The Brexit disarray leaves both her and her government on shaky ground.