Belfast Telegraph

What MPs voted for yesterday, and where to next in the story of Brexit

By Harriet Line

Q. What happened in Westminster yesterday?

A. The Commons voted to authorise the Prime Minister to request an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation process. It was passed by 413 votes to 202 - a majority of 211. Mrs May is expected to return to the Commons next week for another vote on her twice-defeated Brexit deal.

Q. What happens then?

A. If her deal is passed by next Wednesday, she will go to Brussels the following day to request a short Brexit delay to a date no later than June 30 to give herself time to pass legislative changes necessary.

But if the Commons has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement by March 20, then the motion said it is "highly likely" the European Council would require a "clear purpose for any extension" and to determine its length.

The motion adds that any extension beyond June 30 would require the UK to hold European elections in May.

Q. How could Brexit be delayed and for how long?

A. To secure an extension to Article 50, Mrs May would need the support of the 27 other EU states. They are likely to agree to an extension as long as there was a prospect of a deal being reached - or a referendum or general election which could change the political landscape at Westminster.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said that Brexit should be completed before the EU elections in late May. If a longer extension was sought, that would mean taking part in the elections, something likely to fuel Eurosceptic anger.

Q. What has the EU said?

A. European Council president Donald Tusk has indicated that the EU may be ready to offer a lengthy extension to negotiations if the UK wants to "rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it". Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that London needs to tell the EU about what purpose an extension would serve and how long it would last. But he welcomed Westminster's vote to extend Article 50, as it reduces the likelihood of a cliff edge, no-deal Brexit at the end of the month.

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