UK Prime Minister Theresa May Announces Brexit Deal Postponement

UK Prime Minister Theresa May Announces Brexit Deal Postponement

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the debate over Britain’s impending departure from the European Union (all times local):

British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament’s vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos.

All signs had pointed to a big defeat for the prime minister in the vote planned for Tuesday. But postponing the vote is a fresh humiliation for May, who became prime minister after Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the EU.

May has been battling on Brexit ever since — first to strike a divorce deal with the bloc, then to sell it to skeptical British lawmakers before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29.

Both Conservative and opposition Labour Party lawmakers have said they would not back the divorce deal that May and EU leaders agreed on last month.

The foreign minister of Belgium says the European Union might be willing to modify minor details of its Brexit agreement with the U.K. but that wholesale changes are out of the question.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters in Brussels that it’s always “possible to discuss about some details but we (know) the limits and the red lines of the European Union.”

But he added: “it is quite difficult to change important elements.”

Reynders said he is “quite pessimistic” about the future of Brexit given developments in London.

He said he wants to hear exactly what Prime Minister Theresa May wants and that things would be clearer after she addresses the U.K. Parliament Monday.

The Dutch foreign minister says the European Union would study any new Brexit offer that British Prime Minister Theresa May makes but that chances are slim it would be accepted.

Minister Stef Block spoke in Brussels before May was due to address the British parliament on Monday afternoon about the divorce deal between Britain and the EU and was unaware of exactly what she might announce.

He says “of course we will look carefully at any proposal she might make.”

Blok added: “But we know how difficult it has been to reach agreement. So if there will be talks, it won’t be easy.”

The House of Commons in London is due to vote Tuesday on whether to accept or reject the Brexit deal, and signs point to a big defeat for May’s Brexit deal.

12:20 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will make an emergency statement to Parliament about Brexit, amid reports that a crucial vote on her EU divorce deal will be postponed.

The House of Commons Speaker’s office says May will make the previously unscheduled statement at about 3:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. EST).

The announcement came as May held talks with her Cabinet about the next steps in the Brexit process. The House of Commons is due to vote Tuesday on whether to accept or reject the Brexit deal, and signs point to a big defeat for the prime minister.

May’s office said the vote was definitely going ahead, but the BBC and other outlets reported it would be delayed.

The European Union’s top court has ruled that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed.

The European Court of Justice ruled Monday that when an EU member country has notified its intent to leave, “that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.”

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process. Article 50 contains few details, in part because the idea of any country leaving was considered unlikely.

The Luxembourg-based ECJ said that given the absence of any exit provision in Article 50, countries are able to change their mind in line with their own constitutional arrangements and that such a move “reflects a sovereign decision.”

The British government is free to do so as long as no withdrawal agreement has entered force.

Lawless reported from London.

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