British lawmakers vote in favour of delaying Brexit

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Brexit supporters say that, in the longer term, it would let Britain forge trade deals across the world and thrive. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted Thursday he will appeal to the leaders of the other 27 EU nations "to be open to a long extension if the United Kingdom finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus about it".

A senior European Union official told Reuters Mr Tusk believed Britain would need at least another year and possibly longer to agree on a divorce deal if Mrs May's third attempt to get her European Union withdrawal agreement through parliament next week also fails. This option is likely to prove popular, since politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate fear time is running out to secure an orderly withdrawal by March 29.

May's spokesman said earlier on Thursday that she would put that deal, struck after two-and-a-half years of talks with the European Union, to another vote "if it was felt that it were worthwhile".

May also needs to win over the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has so far refused to back her plan. May has ruled that out, but could come to see it as her only option. 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.

It would also require unanimous support among the 27 other member states, whose members remain at odds over the issue.

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 made a decision to pull their country out of the European Union.

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"Under no circumstances an extension in the dark!" tweeted the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had earlier said he looked forward to negotiating a "large scale" trade deal with Britain after Brexit, added to May's headaches by criticising her handling of the crisis.

Trump said he was "surprised at how badly" the negotiations have been handled.

"I would be delighted if a consensus emerges behind the Prime Minister's deal over the next day or two".

EU leaders meeting next Thursday will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year, European Council President Donald Tusk said. The U.K. won't be represented in the European Parliament after it quits the EU; its seats already have been given to other countries to fill in the May election.

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