EU's Verhofstadt: EU must increase pressure on Britain over Brexit

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The President of the European Council's intervention on Twitter this morning will bolster claims that the United Kingdom would not leave the EU until 2021 unless Mrs May (pictured outside Downing Street last night) can persuade the DUP and Brexiteers to back her divorce deal.

The motion offered two options - the first is a short delay until June 30 if members of parliament back her existing deal in a third meaningful vote, likely to take place next week; the second is for a much longer extension to allow time to for an alternative Brexit approach.

Either would require unanimous approval from the other 27 European Union members, whose leaders meet in a summit next Thursday.

Postponing Brexit gives May some respite, amid a crisis that has shredded her authority and obliterated her control of a fractious Conservative minority government. A motion calling for a second referendum was defeated by a thumping 334-85 vote on Thursday.

Labour Party MPs abstained from the vote, arguing that now was not the right time to push for a public vote.

Alan Wager, a researcher at the United Kingdom in a Changing Europe think tank, said May faced a struggle to overturn a 149-vote margin of defeat in Parliament this week.

"It's still really hard to see how the numbers stack up for Theresa May, but she's giving it one more go", he said. They have said they will approve an extension if there is a specific reason, but don't want to provide more time for political bickering in Britain.

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For the business community, including the entertainment industry, Thursday's vote does not change their immediate status but prolongs the uncertainty they have faced over the past three years, since the 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters chose to pull their country out of the European Union.

Trump's comments were made as he welcomed Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to the White House for an early St Patrick's Day celebration.

The longer extension will mean that Britain must also participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

If Britain were to "crash out" of the European Union in that way, it would be forced to trade with many other nations under less favorable World Trade Organisation rules. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted Thursday he will appeal to EU leaders "to be open to a long extension if the United Kingdom finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus about it".

"I also reiterate our support for a People's Vote - not as a political point-scoring exercise but as a realistic option to break the deadlock".

Conservative lawmaker George Freeman suggested that May had been so damaged by Brexit that she should promise to quit to get her deal through.

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