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U.K. Parliament Votes Down May’s Brexit Deal


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Jason Douglas

March 12, 2019

LONDON—British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal for a second time, making a delay in the U.K.’s scheduled March 29 departure from the European Union all but inevitable and intensifying political turmoil and business uncertainty.

The defeat on Tuesday—by 391 votes against to 242 in favor—opens a new chapter in Britain’s chaotic exit from the EU, a process that has already cost banks and companies billions, riven British society and splintered its political landscape.

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The deal lawmakers voted down on Tuesday was one Mrs. May negotiated in a wearying series of fraught meetings with the EU last year. It set the immediate terms for Britain’s exit, including settling budget commitments the U.K. had made to the EU and confirming the rights of EU and U.K. citizens living in the others’ territories. The prime minister’s bill would also have established a standstill arrangement under which existing economic, trade and security relations remain unchanged until at least the end of 2020.

However, a clause in the withdrawal deal demanded that no hard border go up between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU. That provision and a so-called backstop agreement insuring it created a deadlock that Mrs. May has failed to break. Euroskeptic lawmakers fear the backstop would lock the U.K. indefinitely in a customs union with the EU.

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