UK lawmakers seek to stop no-deal Brexit as EU warnings grow

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May gives a speech to a packed parliament Tuesday March 12, 2019. May keeps going, declining to resign, despite two successive parliamentary defeats of historic proportion and she is still pushing for her Brexit agreement, despite ample evidence that Parliament won’t support it. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)
Geoffrey Cox, Britain's Attorney General looks down as he leaves 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting in London, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. In the background is Stephen Barclay, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May sits on front bench right, orange jacket, facing a packed parliament Tuesday March 12, 2019. May keeps going, declining to resign, despite two successive parliamentary defeats of historic proportion and she is still pushing for her Brexit agreement, despite ample evidence that Parliament won’t support it. (Mark Duffy/UK Parliament via AP)
Artist Kaya Mar, anti-Brexit remain in the European Union supporter, holds a placard during a protest outside the House of Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. European Union officials on Wednesday criticized the U.K. Parliament for rejecting a Brexit deal for a second time as the bloc prepared for a chaotic, cliff-edge departure. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Former U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) leader and member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage attends a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. British lawmakers rejected May's Brexit deal in a 391-242 vote on Tuesday night. Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal. (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)
A pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporter takes part in a protest outside the House of Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The European Parliament's chief Brexit official says he wants to limit any Brexit deadline extension to a few months at best, fearing it will take over the whole European election campaign. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporter takes part in a protest outside the House of Parliament in London, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The European Parliament's chief Brexit official says he wants to limit any Brexit deadline extension to a few months at best, fearing it will take over the whole European election campaign. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
An anti-Brexit, left, and pro-Brexit supporter debate outside the House of Parliament in London, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Prime Minister Theresa May's mission to secure Britain's orderly exit from the European Union appeared headed for defeat Tuesday, as lawmakers ignored her entreaties to support her divorce deal and end the political chaos and economic uncertainty that Brexit has unleashed.(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions inside the House of Commons in London, Wednesday March 13, 2019. Britain and the European Union seem braced Wednesday for a chaotic, cliff-edge Brexit, as Britain’s Parliament is set to hold further votes over the split with European Union. (House of Commons/PA via AP)
European Union's Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the Commission, left, and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. British lawmakers rejected May's Brexit deal in a 391-242 vote on Tuesday night. Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal. (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier delivers his speech during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. British lawmakers rejected May's Brexit deal in a 391-242 vote on Tuesday night. Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal. (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)
European Union's Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the Commission, center left, and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, attend a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. British lawmakers rejected May's Brexit deal in a 391-242 vote on Tuesday night. Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal. (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May sits on front bench right, orange jacket, facing a packed parliament Tuesday March 12, 2019. May keeps going, declining to resign, despite two successive parliamentary defeats of historic proportion and she is still pushing for her Brexit agreement, despite ample evidence that Parliament won’t support it. (Mark Duffy/UK Parliament via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves from Downing Street in London, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. European Union officials on Wednesday criticized the U.K. Parliament for rejecting a Brexit deal for a second time as the bloc prepared for a chaotic, cliff-edge departure. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

DEAL, England — The people of Deal would like a Brexit deal. Above all, they want Britain's divided politicians to make a decision.

This seaside town facing France across the Channel voted strongly to leave the European Union in Britain's 2016 referendum. Almost three years later, residents of Deal, the rest of the U.K. and the EU woke up Wednesday to political crisis and warnings of economic chaos if Britain crashes out of the bloc on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement to smooth the way.

"Potentially it is going to be a nightmare," said Michael Eddy, a district councilor who lives in Deal, a few miles from England's main Channel port of Dover.

He says local authorities have modeled potential disruptions and believe that "a two-minute delay for every truck going through the port of Dover" would lead to a 50-mile (80-kilometer) traffic jam.

"What then happens with local people wanting to go about their business, wanting to get to hospitals, wanting to get their kids to school, all of that kind of stuff?" he said.

Residents, businesses and politicians across Britain and the European Union were bracing for a chaotic, cliff-edge Brexit after British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit agreement for a second time on Tuesday by a decisive 391-242 vote.

Parliament will vote later Wednesday on whether to rule out leaving the EU on March 29 without a deal.

Britain's Parliament is trying to seize control of Brexit from the government, though it's far from clear if lawmakers can agree on a way forward. There are competing factions supporting May's deal, or a softer deal that would keep close ties with the EU, or a no-deal Brexit or even a new referendum on Britain's EU membership.

Still, a vote Wednesday to avoid a disorderly Brexit won't eliminate the risk of it happening. By law, Britain will leave the EU on March 29, with or without a deal, unless it cancels Brexit or secures a delay from the EU.

Top EU officials, meanwhile, warned that the prospect of no deal could not be eliminated unless the U.K. Parliament approved some type of exit deal.

"The risk of a no-deal has never been higher," chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said.

"I urge you please not to underestimate the risk or its consequences," he told European lawmakers in Strasbourg, France.

Both Britain and the EU have ramped up planning for a no-deal Brexit, which would rip up decades of rules for travel and trade between Britain and the EU. Economists say it could cause huge upheaval, with customs checks causing gridlock at U.K. ports, new tariffs triggering sudden price hikes and red tape for everyone from truckers to tourists.

On Wednesday, the U.K. government announced its plans for the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, saying it wouldn't impose new checks, duties or controls on goods coming from EU member Ireland into Northern Ireland. It also said it wouldn't slap tariffs on 87 percent of goods coming into Britain from the EU — though there would be new levies on imports of some items including meat and cars.

The tariffs, intended to be temporary, wouldn't apply to goods crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland, raising fears the plan would spark a rise in smuggling across that border.

U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC the government was well prepared but "no-deal is going to be very disruptive for the economy."

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the no-deal arrangements would be "a sledgehammer for our economy."

A weakened May, her authority shredded by successive Brexit defeats in Parliament, said her Conservative lawmakers could vote Wednesday night according to their conscience, rather than having to follow a party line.

If a no-deal Brexit is ruled out, Parliament will vote Thursday on whether to ask the EU to delay Britain's departure.

"The government needs to seek an extension of (Brexit-triggering) Article 50 so that we can have a bit more time to sort things out because, to be honest, we are in such a mess," opposition Labour Party lawmaker Yvette Cooper said.

The EU — openly exasperated by Britain's continuing Brexit crisis — warned that Britain would need to present a strong reason for any extension.

"I am against every extension — whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours — if it's not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something," said the European Parliament's chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt. "Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue."

The European Parliament approved measures Wednesday to ameliorate the immediate hardships of a no-deal Brexit. It backed emergency measures designed to provide some continuity for everything from air, port and road traffic to foreign students to the fishing industry.

The U.K. Parliament has now twice rejected the withdrawal agreement that May spent the best part of two years negotiating with the EU, and the bloc insists there will be no more talks. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued a warning to British lawmakers.

"Whoever rejects the (Brexit) agreement plays with the welfare of their citizens and the economy in a reckless way," he said.

Yet May — clinging to power by a thread — has not given up on a third attempt to get her deal through Parliament again.

"I am confident that we will do a deal," Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Wednesday.

Many Britons wish they could share Hammond's optimism.

"I think that a bit of unity would be helpful now," said Katharine Beaugie, an artist in Dover. "It would be much better if we could have found some sort of decision."

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Jill Lawless reported from London and Raf Casert from Strasbourg, France. Danica Kirka in London, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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