* Resounding defeat raises pressure on prime minister as clock ticks towards UK’s March 29 EU departure date. British legislators have rejected beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, plunging the future of the UK’s bid to leave the European Union deeper into crisis and raising the possibility of a delayed departure. MPs in the lower chamber House of Commons on Tuesday voted 391 to 242 against May’s plan, fewer than 24 hours after she claimed to have won meaningful concessions from Brussels over the deal’s contentious so-called “backstop” clause. The result marked a second defeat within two months for the prime minister over her Brexit strategy after MPs overwhelmingly rejected the proposed withdrawal agreement by a margin of 230 in January. MPs are now set to vote on Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal, as promised by May, 16 days before the UK is scheduled to depart the bloc on March 29. If legislators opt against departing without an agreement on future relations, the government could request an extension to Article 50 – the exit clause in the EU’s constitution – from Brussels in a bid to buy more time as it seeks to strike a different divorce deal. The EU has said no other terms of withdrawal are available to the UK other than the deal brokered with May during months of fractious back-and-forth negotiations, however. Nearly 52 percent of Britons – more than 17 million people – voted in favour of quitting the 28-member EU during a June 2016 referendum. Turnout was 72 percent. More soon…]]>

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