LONDON — British lawmakers on Thursday voted to seek an extension to the country's Brexit deadline, throwing further doubt on the U.K.'s impending divorce from the European Union.
In a series of votes in another dramatic yet inconclusive week, members of Parliament overwhelmingly voted 412-202 for the resolution. It directs Prime Minister Theresa May to ask E.U. leaders for more time to work out what has become a protracted political mess.
May will need all 27 other members of the bloc to agree to extend the March 29 deadline. It is far from certain that such unanimity exists.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said he had appealed to European nations to be open to a "long extension" if necessary.
Lawmakers also narrowly voted against an amendment that would have effectively allowed Members of Parliament to take control of the Brexit process to try to find an alternative to May's deal.
MPs also soundly rejected an amendment paving the way for second referendum — for now at least — by 334 votes to 85.
However, many who support a second referendum abstained because they knew the vote would lose, and they believe they will get a better chance in the near future.
The U.K. voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the E.U., but politicians haven't been able to agree on how the complex process should work.
Unless there is some sort of intervention, the U.K. will exit the trading bloc on March 29 with or without a deal. The latter scenario — dubbed a "no-deal Brexit" — would, according to most experts and critics, be an unprecedented act of economic self-harm.
So at the 11th hour, with just over two weeks to go, lawmakers are scrambling to avert what many see as looming disaster.
May has made a deal with the E.U., but it has been overwhelmingly rejected twice in the House of Commons.
With a "no-deal" Brexit looming as the default position, lawmakers on Thursday instructed May to go back to E.U. officials and seek an extension on the deadline to give them more time to sort things out.
May will most likely make a third attempt to push her unpopular deal through next week, ahead of what looks to be a crunch E.U. summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday.