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Brexit: MEPs overwhelmingly vote to support Article 50 extension should UK request one

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Brexit: MEPs overwhelmingly vote to support Article 50 extension should UK request one
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REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
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MEPs today voted 544-126 for a resolution supporting the UK being given a Brexit deadline extension should it request one.

This was on the condition the prolongation is justified and has a specific purpose, such as avoiding a “no-deal” departure, holding general elections or a referendum, revoking Article 50, or approving the Withdrawal Agreement.

They add that an extension should not affect the work and functioning of the European Union (EU) institutions.

The European Parliament continues to support an “orderly Brexit” based on the already negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, MEPs reaffirmed in the resolution.

MEPs also pledged to reject any Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop.

It comes as Jean-Claude Juncker said the European Commission was willing to "work day and night" on Brexit.

He told the European Parliament that he believed a deal with the UK on its conditions of leaving the EU was "desirable and possible".

Juncker addressed MEPs with the EU's Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union ahead of a debate on the subject.

You can watch back live footage of the addresses, debate and vote in the above video player.

The backstop remains the "main sticking point," the Commission head said, adding: "I have no emotional attachment to the backstop, but stand by objectives it is designed to achieve."

Juncker said his talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Luxembourg on Monday were "friendly" and "in part constructive".

He added that he had asked Johnson for written, practical steps on how he wanted to move forward and until this was done Juncker couldn't say progress had been made.

Barnier echoed Juncker's sentiment saying: "We (the EU) are open to any UK proposal and are willing to work day and night towards this purpose."

He reminded the UK that half its trade was with the EU and on the subject of trade deals going forward said: "In order to make things absolutely clear, the level of ambition will depend on economic, social guarantees put down on paper."

"Do not underestimate a no-deal Brexit," he warned.

MEPs take to the floor to debate

Leader of the European People's Party (EPP) Manfred Weber directly addressed Brexiter MEPs in the chamber asking about the stalemate in the UK Parliament: "Is this the idea of democracy for the future of Great Britain, I ask the Brexiteers." His comments were met with jeers.

He added that if the British Parliament couldn't emerge from deadlock, "the best thing we can do is give a vote back to the people of Britain".

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt also provoked Nigel Farage's boisterous Brexit Party on its lack of representation in the UK Parliament, saying: "It's fantastic that the Brexit party and Farage are making so much noise because they can't do it in Westminster anymore."

During his speaking time, Farage reiterated that the Withdrawl Agreement negotiated by Theresa May "is a bad deal for Britain," and responded to Verhofstadt saying: "We want no part of your European empire."

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and party members.REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

One journalist in Brussels commented on the number of empty chairs in the Parliament for the debate, while the Brexit Party was well-represented.

As more MEPs took to the floor to present their arguments, Liberal Democrats MEP Barbara Gibson argued her case, asking Parliament to grant an extension to Article 50.

She labelled Johnson a "would-be dictator who has lied and cheated and silenced the mother of all parliaments."

MEP Gunnar Beck hit back at the EU's Brexit negotiator Barnier, saying he was a "shrewd and skilful negotiator, but he is trying to reduce the UK to a vassal state or alternatively, is risking massive job losses in the EU ... Either outcome is unacceptable."

The UK's Supreme court is currently hearing appeals over the legality of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's closing down — or proroguing — of parliament until October 14.

Read more:

UK Supreme Court hearing on lawfulness of Parliamentary prorogation Day 2

‘PM regards parliament a threat,’ hears UK Supreme Court

What is the UK's Supreme Court?