© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

British Parliament Rejects Prime Minister's Brexit Plan For A Third Time


This was the day the United Kingdom was going to leave the European Union, nearly three years after it voted to quit the EU in a referendum that shocked the world. Instead, today Britain's House of Commons voted down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal for the third time.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: Mr. Speaker, I think it should be a matter of profound regret to every member of this house that once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (Cross-talking).

MAY: ....In an orderly fashion.

CORNISH: So the entire Brexit process is in chaos again with just two weeks to go before the U.K. could leave the EU with no deal at all. We're joined by NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, why did the prime minister's plan fail again?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, Audie, she actually did do a little bit better. It was only by 58 votes (laughter) that she lost this time around. If you remember, earlier this week, she offered to resign in order to get more support. It was not enough. And the problem is some people still object to parts of the deal, particularly one that would keep Northern Ireland in a regulatory alignment with the European Union with no end in sight. And that's to avoid a hard border. But people feel that that would divide the United Kingdom, in a sense. Other people want a softer Brexit. Then of course, some members of Parliament, they don't want Brexit at all.

CORNISH: The U.K. has now blown through one big Brexit deadline. What's the significance of the next one, which is April 12?

LANGFITT: Well, that is the time at which the United Kingdom has to either come up with some new solution, and if they don't then crash out of the EU with no deal at all, which would be seen - sort of economically could be very damaging. Certainly, politically, would be hugely embarrassing. Now, what we think what's going to happen next is on Monday, Parliament's going to come back, and they're going to look at other options. One that I think is going to get a close look is a customs arrangement that the idea being they would still have a customs arrangement with the European Union so that goods could flow back and forth pretty easily. That came up for a vote earlier this week. Only lost by eight.

So that said, also there's a lot of politics going on here, Audie. May's opponents are circling. There's already campaigns running in the background to replace her as head of the Conservative Party. And after today's vote, Jeremy Corbyn - he's the head of the opposition Labour Party - this is what he had to say.


JEREMY CORBYN: There has to be an alternative found. And if the prime minister can't accept that then she must go. Not at an indeterminate date in the future, but now so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election.


CORNISH: Theresa May has suffered three political defeats in less than three months. Has she given up on getting this deal through?

LANGFITT: You know, I'd love to tell you in a sense that she has. And I think many Britons wish that she would stop. But she has not, apparently. She seemed to hint at the end of - after the vote today that she still might try to bring it back if Parliament can't reach some consensus. That idea enrages many of her detractors. Caroline Lucas, she's a member of Parliament in the Green Party, this was her response today after the vote.


CAROLINE LUCAS: It does beg a belief that the prime minister still seems to not recognize a dead deal when there's one right in front of her.

CORNISH: Frank, how is the European Union looking at all of this, right? They've got to agree to something when they make a decision in the U.K.

LANGFITT: They do. And of course, they have a lot of power, more power than the United Kingdom has in this relationship. Right after the vote, the European Union said, we're going to have a summit on April 10, and to handle either a request for a long extension, if the U.K. can come up with some other idea, or prepare for the U.K. to leave without a deal. So they're ready. They've said they're ready for anything. And they can tell. You know, we're coming down just - it's going to be two final days up until the 12th. There's going to be probably a lot of action then.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt reporting from London. Frank, thank you.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.