Image: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaking to the house after losing the second meaningful vote on the government’s Brexit deal
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons on Tuesday.Parliamentary Recording Unit / AFP – Getty Images
March 13, 2019, 9:40 AM EDT
By Rachel Elbaum and Linda Givetash
LONDON — With just 16 days to go before Britain is set to leave the European Union, lawmakers will vote Wednesday on whether to exit without a deal.
The new vote comes a day after Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May painstakingly negotiated with the E.U. over the course of nearly two years.
Image: House of CommonsLawmakers in the Main Chamber in the House of Commons await the result of Tuesday’s vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.Mark Duffy / AFP – Getty Images
It is widely expected that lawmakers will say no to leaving the E.U. without a deal. But that is exactly what will happen on March 29, unless they take action.
Leaving without a deal would put up trade barriers between Britain and its closest neighbors. Supermarkets have warned of shortages of fresh produce, businesses have been stockpiling goods for months and the government has built up stocks of medicines.
Businesses in particular are pushing for lawmakers to ensure that the U.K. leaves with an agreement in place.
“The sledgehammer that is hanging over business has become unmanageable,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, a trade group.
The government has said that a no-deal scenario would leave the economy 6 percent to 9 percent smaller over 15 years than remaining in the E.U.
No-deal Brexit’s supporters argue that crashing out would free the U.K. from E.U. rules and red tape, and allow Britain to forge an independent global trade policy.
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Wednesday’s vote will have no legal force, but will serve to direct May’s next steps. If a no-deal Brexit is rejected then lawmakers will vote on whether to ask the E.U. for a delay — something to which all the bloc’s other 27 members must agree.
The E.U.’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, questioned whether there was any point in delaying Britain’s departure, saying on Wednesday that the government would need to justify any request and that the treaty May agreed to is the only deal on offer.
“Extend this negotiation — what for?” Barnier asked in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “It’s over.”
He added, “If the U.K. still wants to leave the E.U. in an orderly manner, this treaty is — and will remain — the only treaty possib