Brexit news: UK to request Article 50 extension to delay EU exit until at least June

MPs have overwhelmingly voted to delay Brexit after the Commons backed a motion ordering Theresa May to ask the EU to extend article 50 until at least June.

Amid dramatic scenes, Labour provoked fury among pro-EU MPs by abstaining on a bid for a Final Say referendum, which was defeated by 249 votes.

Rebel calls to allow parliament to take control of the Brexit process through “indicative votes” were also defeated, though narrowly.

It comes after the US president Donald Trump also made an explosive intervention into the debate, saying a public vote would be “unfair” and he was “surprised at how badly” the Brexit talks had gone.

But worryingly for Ms May cabinet unity crumbled when it came to a free vote on the government’s Brexit delay motion.

Eight of her top ministers voted against it – and a further 180 Conservative MPs did likewise.

Ms May will now eye a third vote on her withdrawal agreement while Britain asks the EU for a delay to the date of its exit from the bloc.

See below how we covered Thursday’s events live


Welcome to The Independent‘s live coverage of what is set to be another momentous day in British politics.


Chancellor Philip Hammond is doing the media rounds this morning. He said he hoped Ms May’s Withdrawal Agreement could secure a Commons majority, but said it was also necessary for MPs to “explore other options”.

Speaking on Sky News, he said:

I am very happy with the Prime Minister’s deal. I would be delighted if a consensus emerges behind the Prime Minister’s deal over the next day or two.

But I think we also have to explore other options for Parliament to express a view about how we resolve this impasse.”


For those of you that missed the action yesterday, it was all a bit chaotic last night but in summary, the government put down a motion to rule out a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

But MPs voted by 312 votes to 308 in favour of an amendment that was stronger than the government’s own motion in its opposition to a no-deal outcome in any scenario.

The amendment being passed forced the government to whip against its original motion – as it had been changed.

Here is a quick summary of what happened from our Political Editor, Joe Watts: 


Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl said the outcome of last night’s vote was “predictable” but claimed the EU still does not know what kind of agreement the UK wants.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We still do not know what London really wants because we know that they don’t want to quit without an agreement and because of the to be expected chaos, but we do not know what kind of agreement is desired.”


Ms Kneissl said a short technical extension could be granted, but that the EU would have to know “what exactly is the additional value of contents that London offers in order to renegotiate something”.

On a longer extension, she said: “That would be possible if we were not in the year 2019: we are still on schedule for the European Parliament elections and here I see some problem… there is a certain deadline – not because one wants to put pressure on London but because of the schedule in terms of elections.”


Philip Hammond told Sky:

“I am confident that we will get to a deal which allows us to leave the EU in an orderly fashion and to have a future close trading partnership with the EU.

“The process of getting there may not be entirely smooth but I am confident that will be the outcome.”


He said he was not willing to vote for the Spelman amendment ruling out no-deal in all circumstances, because it was a “unicorn” which proposed an outcome without the means to deliver it.

Mr Hammond played down suggestions that Speaker John Bercow may invoke parliamentary convention to prevent Theresa May from repeatedly tabling the same proposals.

“There are various conventions in Parliament, but if there is clear evidence that there is a body of support growing for the Prime Minister’s deal, the Commons will find a way to ensure that support is expressed,” he said.


Health Minister Stephen Hammond, who rebelled in Wednesday night’s key no-deal vote, said he was not given permission to abstain.

Asked if he was given assurances that he would keep his job if he abstained, Mr Hammond told Today: “I personally hadn’t, but I believe some colleagues may have been.”


Conservative MP Johnny Mercer tweeted a screengrab of some abuse he’d received over the latest Commons vote:


Just a reminder that tonight MPs will be voting on whether to extend Article 50. 

The government’s motion calls for a one-off extension of Article 50, delaying the scheduled Brexit date of 29 March to 30 June if MPs approve the deal negotiated with the EU by next Wednesday.

It is more than likely that, like last night, this motion will be amended before MPs vote on it.


If you’re just joining us and have managed to keep up with the last few days of political chaos, we have another momentous day ahead of us as MPs will get to vote on whether to delay Brexit. 

At 11.30 the debate is set to begin on whether the UK should apply for an extension of Article 50. 

There will be a series of votes on amendments (much like last night) – before a vote on the government’s motion to delay the Brexit date from 29 March to 30 June.


Donald Tusk has taken to Twitter to explain his position – says the EU27 are open to a “long extension”


Theresa May’s motion says if MPs approve her withdrawal agreement by March 20, she will seek a one-off extension until 30 June to allow time for the necessary legislation to be passed. 

So what are the amendments that we could see tonight? 


Labour’s amendment 

Parliament has “decisively” rejected both Ms May’s deal and no deal. It calls for a delay to Brexit “to provide parliamentary time for this House to find a majority for a different approach”.


No second referendum

A cross-party amendment, tabled by Tory Lee Rowley and backed by 111 Leave-backing MPs, calls for the result of the 2016 referendum to be respected and a second vote on EU membership to be ruled out.

Signatories include former ministers George Eustice and Dominic Raab, European Research Group deputy chairman Steve Baker, Labour MPs Gareth Snell and Caroline Flint, and Democratic Unionist Party Westminster leader Nigel Dodds.


Second referendum

Tabled by Independent Group MP Sarah Wollaston and backed by members of the new grouping, Liberal Democrats and a handful from other parties, this amendment seeks an Article 50 extension to stage a second referendum with Remain and Parliament’s preferred Brexit option on the ballot paper.


Liberal Democrats

Sir Vince Cable’s party have tabled an amendment calling for an extension to arrange a second referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper.


Scottish independence

Tabled by the Scottish National Party, this amendment says Scotland must not be taken out of the EU against its will and that this can best be avoided by allowing its people to vote for independence.


Plaid Cymru

The Welsh nationalist party is calling for an extension to 2021 for more negotiations, with a binding referendum at that point on whether to accept whatever deal has been agreed or remain in the EU.


Revoke Article 50

Tabled by SNP MP Angus MacNeil and backed by Europhile MPs from across the House, including Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke and Labour’s Keith Vaz, this amendment calls for Brexit to be halted by withdrawing the UK’s notice of intention to leave under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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