Three years after Britain voted to exit the European Union, the nation’s parliament still has not agreed on how to do it.
Britain’s Parliament on Tuesday defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan in a 391 to 242 vote that that The New York Times says is “likely to delay Brexit and could derail it entirely.”
With just over two weeks before the Brexit deadline, options are dwindling.
Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the European Union on schedule, on March 29, without a deal — “a scenario that could create economic havoc for Britain and, to a lesser degree, Europe,” according to The Washington Post.
Formal opposition in Parliament to a no-deal departure would ratchet up pressure on the government to seek a postponement of the deadline, something that would be contingent on an agreement between May’s government and the European Union.
However, Europe’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has questioned why the EU should extend the Brexit negotiation period.
"Again the House of Commons says what it doesn't want," Barnier told the European Parliament, according to the BBC. "Now this impasse can only be solved in the UK. The risk of no-deal has never been higher. That is the risk of an exit....in a disorderly fashion."
The European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said that “there will be no further interpretations, no further assurances — we cannot go any further,” said Barnier, according to The Guardian.
Unless Parliament takes some other action, Britain will leave the bloc on that date without a deal in place, which Brexit hard-liners insist would be fine, but which most lawmakers and economists say would be disastrous, said The New York Times.
“Let me be clear,” May said after the defeat. “Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face. The E.U. will want to know what use we will make of such an extension.”
The British government could evade the March 29 deadline unilaterally, but only by revoking its decision to leave the European Union, a step that Mrs. May has insisted she will not take.
Government figures published on Tuesday showed weak economic growth in Britain, just 0.2 percent in the three-month period that ended in January.
Investment in auto manufacturing and other sectors has taken a hit as the country has stumbled toward Brexit. Manufacturers have pleaded with the government for some certainty so they can plan ahead, but many have opted to take their business elsewhere.
U.S. futures pointed to an opening loss of 0.3 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 0.2 percent gain for the S&P 500, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Economists have flagged concerns that the impact of a hard Brexit on the wider region have been underestimated, with the focus on the economic fallout for the U.K. itself.