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Parliament wants to delay Brexit, as May vows 3rd vote on proposed deal

The United Kingdom's political crisis over how to exit the European Union continues. This week, Parliament rejected the option to leave without an agreement, and on Thursday, it voted to delay Brexit for three months. If the EU grants the extension, will it offer Prime Minister Theresa May a "lifeline?" Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin talks to Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to the political crisis in the United Kingdom, as it grapples with how to leave the European Union.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin brings us the latest.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This week, for the second time, the British Parliament rejected the agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the European Union to leave the E.U.

    Parliament doesn't have an alternative, but it has rejected the possibility of leaving without a deal, and, today, lawmakers voted to delay Brexit altogether.

    To help walk us through what happened today and what's likely to happen next, we turn to Peter Spiegel, the news editor at The Financial Times, who joins me from London.

    Peter Spiegel, thanks for being on the "NewsHour."

    Does this extension give the prime minister a lifeline, and will threat E.U. grant it?

  • Peter Spiegel:

    Well, let me take the second part first.

    It is not guaranteed the E.U. will grant it. All 27 countries, the other remaining members of the E.U., have to approve this. This message that we have been getting out of Brussels thus far has been, this will be pro forma.

    But you occasionally hear the French in particular, but also the Spanish, saying, look, if you guys are going to ask for an extension, what are you going use the extension for? You have to let us know that you're going to come to some resolution, which clearly at this point the Brits can't do.

    Now, is this a lifeline? Yes and no. I mean, in the one — on the one hand, this has been for two years Theresa May has been trying to get a deal through Parliament. She's negotiated for two years. And we're two weeks away, and she still can't do it.

    The delay will allow her at least another couple of months to try to keep pounding her head against the wall. But there's no sign that this is — anyone's moving anywhere.

    So, the question is, is it going to be a short extension, where she tries to get her deal done in the next month or two? Or is this a long extension, when actually the whole question whether British leaves at all becomes — becomes into play? And I think that's the question we're going to be facing next week, when there's another vote in Parliament on this bill.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So the vote today was to extend until June the 30th, and that date is important because it's right before the next European Parliament session begins.

    What could lead to the delay being longer?

  • Peter Spiegel:

    Well, look, the big announcement this week also was that she's going to try for a third time to bring her plan to Parliament.

    It's probably going to be next Tuesday. And she has said to the members of Parliament, look, you have got a choice. You can either back my bill in this third vote, in which case we will need a short technical extension, probably until when the European elections happen, which is May 23. We will push it through Parliament. We will get it ratified. We will push all the legislation through, and that will be done and dusted.

    Or we could be indefinite. We could be a years stuck in an extension, because, as you said, the European elections are in May. The European Parliament sits in July. Then they have to redo the European Commission, because they come to a new term. Every five years, they have got to reappoint the European Commission.

    So, Britain suddenly, as an ongoing member of the E.U., has to participate in all these things. And the chances of actually Theresa May hanging around that long as prime minister are very slim.

    So either you get a very short and sweet and the new — the deal goes through and Britain leaves in late May, or, boy, it goes haywire, and we have no idea where this is going to end.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And no idea where this could end.

    Could that mean that we'd get either no Brexit at all or, as you referred to earlier, a second referendum?

  • Peter Spiegel:

    Well, look I mean, what you hear when you talk to Brussels — I spent six years there — what you hear from the E.U. is the one thing that they'd be willing to sit back and wait for is some sort of democratic event.

    Is it a second referendum, where the British people are asked yet again, is it this kind of Brexit you want, is that kind of Brexit you want, or do you want to stay in at this point? Or you have a general election.

    I mean, the fact the matter is, Theresa May no longer has a majority in Parliament. She's relying on a small Northern Ireland party to stay in government. You have a Labor Party which is coming around slowly, but surely, to backing a second referendum. So why not bring it to the people?

    You have a Brexit party in the Tory party, and you have what has increasingly become a second referendum party in the Labor Party. And I think you're beginning to hear a lot of rumbling in Brussels that, if you guys can't solve this in Parliament, the best solution is going to be some sort of democratic event, again, second referendum or general election.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Peter Spiegel, news editor of The Financial Times, thank you very much.

  • Peter Spiegel:

    My pleasure.

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