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Theresa May defeats Cooper amendment on delaying Brexit

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LONDON — Theresa May has defeated an amendment which could have forced her to delay Brexit.

MPs voted by 321 to 298 to reject an amendment brought by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, which was designed to allow MPs to force the prime minister to extend the UK’s negotiating time with the EU beyond March 29.

The defeat means the House of Commons will not now have the opportunity to vote on a new bill which could have forced May to seek an extension from the EU if no Brexit deal is agreed to by MPs by the end of February.

Any extension would have needed to be agreed unanimously by other EU leaders.

Senior EU figures have not ruled out an extension. However, any such measure would likely need to have a purpose, such as to enable a deal to be ratified by the UK parliament, or to allow a second Brexit referendum, or general election.

There are also concerns among MPs that the timeframe to push through necessary legislation is not big enough.

The amendment was backed by Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn told his MPs to back the amendment, saying that it was now “inevitable” that Britain will not leave the EU at the end of March.

“It’s inevitable that the government will have to extend Article 50 in any scenario,” Corbyn said.

However, significant numbers of Labour MPs, including those on Corbyn’s frontbench, were concerned that backing the amendment would trigger a backlash among Labour voters who support leaving the EU.

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