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MPs give May two-week Brexit reprieve

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British Prime Minister Theresa May meets European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, Belgium on February 7. Xinhua

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May won a two week reprieve on Wednesday from British MPs, who postponed a threatened rebellion aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit after she agreed to a possible delay to Britain’s departure from the EU.

But the opposition Labour Party announced it would now support a new public vote on Brexit, the first time since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU that one of its main parties has backed giving voters a chance to change their minds.

After months of saying that Britain must leave the EU on time on March 29, Ms May opened up the possibility on Tuesday of a short limited extension to the exit date.

That was enough to avert a showdown in parliament on Wednesday with MPs – including ministers in her own government who had said they were prepared to join a rebellion this week to avert an exit with no agreement.

Ms May’s climbdown took much of the heat out of a series of votes on Wednesday that could have ripped control of the entire process away from the government.

In the end, MPs backed her promised timetable. But it now means British citizens and businesses will not learn how, or possibly even whether, they are to leave the European Union until the final weeks or even days before the deadline.

After a deal she negotiated with European leaders was rejected on January 15 in the biggest parliamentary defeat in modern British history, Ms May is hoping to bring back a tweaked divorce accord for a vote, which could come as early as next week but may not take place until March 12.

She has now promised that if her deal is voted down, MPs will get a chance to vote on whether to leave with no deal, or to ask the European Union to delay the deadline.

MPs voted 502-20 in support of an amendment proposed by opposition Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper that spelled out Ms May’s proposed timetable. The government backed the amendment.

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