Brexit Derails: Vote Postponed, U.K. Has Power to Cancel Altogether

Theresa May was laughed at by Members of Parliament when she delayed the vote due to lack of support.

The plan for Brexit derailed significantly on Monday after reports of a delayed vote caused the value of the pound to drop to an 18-month low.

Not long after, Theresa May officially postponed the final vote that was scheduled for Tuesday, signaling high anxieties over lagging support in the House of Commons. Adding to the fray, this morning the highest court in Europe issued its ruling that the U.K. has the authority to outright cancel its plans to leave the European Union.

The Prime Minister gave an impromptu address to Commons after beginning the week with emergency calls with her Cabinet ministers. May was met with derisive laughter when she told the MPs, "I've listened very carefully to what has been said in this chamber and out of it, by members from all sides." After waiting for the noise to quell, she continued, "If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be defeated by a significant margin. We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the house at this time."

Financial Times/Dan Mitchell

Divided opinions over Brexit were recharged just hours before, when the European Court of Justice released its decision that the "UK is free to unilaterally revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw from the E.U."

May's unpopular Brexit plan was set in motion after the country narrowly voted in its favor in a 2016 referendum. The U.K. became the first country to begin the Article 50 procedure to cut ties with the E.U. in 2017, with May struggling to gain parliamentary support against vocal opponents. The European court's decision doesn't outline the exact process through which the government can renege on its exit plans, but the ruling highlights the U.K.'s power to overturn the referendum results and remain in the bloc without the approval of the 27 E.U. members.

The court statement only urged that a plan to derail Brexit should follow "a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements." However, a spokesperson for the E.U. panned the possibility that the U.K. will renege on its negotiated separation, stating, "We will not renegotiate — our position has therefore not changed and as far as we are concerned the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on 29 March, 2019."

What became clear on Monday was that no U.K. party was on track to get what they want. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told The New York Times, "The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray." He criticized May's repeated insistence that Brexit is "the best deal that can be negotiated." Corbyn called the Prime Minister's plan "disastrous" and maligned, "we don't have a functioning government."

Debates continue over the parliament's deep divides, whether the public will be given the power to voice their opinion in a second referendum, and when or if the Commons will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. At most, Theresa May has until January 21, the voting deadline, to convince her MPs, as well as the anxious public, that she's achieved "the best deal" for the country.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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