May tries to save Brexit deal after vote to delay UK exit

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May worked Friday to pull off an against-the-odds rescue for her European Union divorce deal, after Parliament voted to postpone Brexit to avert a chaotic U.K. departure in two weeks.

May planned to spend the next few days trying to persuade opponents in her Conservative Party and its parliamentary allies to support the withdrawal agreement, which Parliament has resoundingly defeated twice. That left Britain facing a disruptive “no-deal” exit from the bloc on March 29, when a two-year countdown to the country’s departure runs out.

After months of political deadlock, Britain’s House of Commons voted 413-202 Thursday to ask the EU to delay the country’s exit.

The vote in itself won’t prevent Britain from crashing out of the bloc — an outcome that could mean major disruptions for businesses and people in both the U.K. and the 27 remaining EU countries.

By law, Britain will leave the EU on March 29 with or without a deal, unless it cancels Brexit or secures a delay from the EU.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit had “diminished” with Thursday’s votes. He said he hoped the U.K. would “leave as soon as possible in an orderly fashion” if Parliament backs May’s withdrawal agreement next week.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party have rejected her withdrawal deal — which lays out the terms of Britain’s departure and the outline of the country’s future relations with the EU — because they think it keeps Britain too closely bound to the bloc’s rules and regulations.

But May hopes they will change their mind if they face a choice between her deal or remaining in the EU.

The British government is holding talks with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which has strongly opposed the Brexit divorce deal. The pro-British party thinks a guarantee in the agreement that there will be no customs checks or other obstacles between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit could weaken the bond between that region and the rest of the U.K.