This evening (14th March 2019) MPs voted to accept an extension to Brexit, 412 votes to 202. The motion made it to MPs unamended, with all four votes were either withdrawn or defeated.
This means that May will need to go to the EU, and request an extension to Brexit.
As you might know, the UK cannot extend Article 50 unilaterally – it needs unanimous approval by the EU. So if Parliament votes for an extension, then May has to go back to Brussels and negotiate the extension. The EU will probably come back with a specific extension proposal, and Parliament will have another vote on that specific extension. There are basically two options; the first is a short extension, until July at the latest, with the UK not participating in European Parliament elections, although some EU officials have said that they expect the UK to participate even if the extension expires in July. If the UK gets this short extension, and doesn’t participate in European Parliament elections, then it will have to decide between May’s deal and no-deal before July 1st, without the option to extend Article 50 again. This is because it’s legally very difficult to stay in the EU without MEPs.
The other option is a longer extension. This would give both sides time to renegotiate a completely new deal, or hold a general election or a second referendum. This would also probably involve the UK taking part in European Parliament elections, although there are a couple of possible ways round this. The UK could just ask incumbent British MEPs to keep their seats until Brexit, so that there wouldn’t have to be an election. Otherwise, the UK government could appoint national representatives without holding elections, as Romania and Bulgaria did in 2007, when they joined the EU, although this might be a bit ironic, given how much complaining there’s been about unelected EU officials.
So does the EU want a long extension, or a short one? Well, they’ve been sending mixed signals, and no-one’s quite sure, but according to some sources they’re leaning towards a longer extension, because a short extension makes a no-deal a lot more likely come July 1st, and that’s the one thing te EU doesn’t want.
This result is disappointing to many, and will almost certainly mean the UK won’t leave the EU on the 29th of March as originally proposed. This is disappointing to MPs and to Brexiteers who were looking forward to the UK leaving the EU on the 29th March.