MPs have voted overwhelmingly to seek a delay in the UK's exit from the European Union, setting the stage for British Prime Minister Theresa May to renew efforts to get her divorce deal approved by parliament next week.

MPs approved - by 412 votes to 202 - a statement setting out the option to request a short delay if a Brexit deal can be agreed by 20 March - or a longer delay if no deal can be agreed in time.

Just 15 days before Britain is due to leave the EU, Mrs May is using the threat of a long delay to push Brexit supporters in her Conservative Party to finally back her deal.

A new vote on her deal is likely next week, when those lawmakers will have to decide whether to back a deal they feel does not offer a clean break from the EU, or accept that Brexit could be watered down or even thwarted by a lengthy delay.

Earlier, MPs voted by 334 to 85 against a second referendum on EU membership. Most opposition Labour MPs did not back the measure and even campaigners for a so-called People's Vote said the time was not yet right for parliament to vote on the matter.

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The government narrowly survived an attempt to give politicians control of the parliamentary agenda on 20 March with the aim of forcing a discussion of alternative Brexit options at a later date.

Mrs May's authority hit an all-time low this week after a series of humiliating parliamentary defeats and rebellions.

But she has made clear her plan is still on the agenda, despite twice being rejected by an overwhelming majority in parliament, in January and again on Tuesday.

Earlier today, Mrs May's spokesman said that she would put her Brexit deal, struck after two-and-a-half years of negotiations with the EU, to another vote "if it was felt that it were worthwhile".

Seeking to win over dissenters, she has given rebellious Conservative lawmakers a thinly veiled warning that a failure to back her plan could mean no Brexit at all.

Britons voted by 52% to 48% in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU, a decision that has not only divided the main political parties but also exposed deep rifts in British society.

Sterling has swung more wildly this week than at any point since 2017, rising from below $1.30 to a nine-month high of almost $1.34 as investors bet Britain would avoid a no-deal Brexit.