No Brexit alternative gets Parliament majority

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Published: March 28, 2019 8:46:52 AM

British lawmakers have voted on eight different possible Brexit options, but none received the majority support that would clarify the U.K.'s course. Parliament is trying to find an alternative to Prime Minister Theresa May's twice-rejected EU divorce deal.

 

No Brexit alternative gets Parliament majority

British lawmakers have voted on eight different possible Brexit options, but none received the majority support that would clarify the U.K.’s course. Parliament is trying to find an alternative to Prime Minister Theresa May’s twice-rejected EU divorce deal. Lawmakers voted Wednesday on options that included leaving the European Union without a deal, staying in the bloc’s customs union and single market, putting any EU divorce deal to a public referendum, and canceling Brexit if the prospect of a no-deal departure gets close. The strongest support was for a plan to stay in a customs union with the bloc after Brexit, which was defeated by eight votes: 272-264. Lawmakers plan to narrow the list of options down and hold more votes on Monday.

Britain has until April 12 to find a new plan — or crash out of the EU without a deal. A Northern Ireland party that props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s government says it won’t support her Brexit divorce deal, a blow to May’s hopes of winning approval for the agreement in Parliament. The Democratic Unionist Party said Wednesday it won’t support the deal because of a provision designed keep an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Brexit. The pro-British Unionist party opposes the provision because it fears it would weaken the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. DUP leader Arlene Foster said, “We cannot sign up to something that would damage the Union.”

May wants to try again to get her twice-rejected Brexit deal through Parliament. Many pro-Brexit lawmakers have said they will back it, but only if the DUP agrees. Britain’s former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, a longtime foe of Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce deal, now plans to vote for it. Conservative lawmaker Conor Burns, an ally of Johnson’s, said the former foreign secretary told a meeting of pro-Brexit lawmakers that he would back the deal. The shift came soon after May told Conservative Party lawmakers that she will step down if her twice-rejected deal is approved and Britain leaves the European Union.

Johnson is highly likely to be a contender in any Conservative leadership contest that follows May’s departure. Johnson is among pro-Brexit lawmakers who have opposed the deal because they think it keeps Britain too closely tied to the bloc. In a newspaper column on Wednesday, he said the deal was a “constitutional humiliation.” Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer tweeted: “I wonder what it is about the pending Tory leadership contest that made Boris change his mind?” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers she is prepared to step down “earlier than I intended” in order to win passage of her divorce deal from the European Union. May told lawmakers from the 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers that she wanted to do what was right for the country.

The comments marked the first time May signaled she was prepared to quit in order to secure the necessary votes for the passage of the Brexit divorce deal she has negotiated with the EU but which has been rejected heavily on two occasions by lawmakers. She says, “I know there is a desire for a new approach — and new leadership — in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has told Conservative Party lawmakers that she will quit once the country has left the European Union — but she didn’t set a date. Conservative lawmaker James Cartlidge told reporters as he left the 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers that May told the gathering “she would not remain in post for the next phase of the negotiations.”

Those will deal with Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29 but May has got a short delay after her divorce deal with the EU was rejected overwhelmingly by lawmakers on two occasions. Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has put down a motion to have Parliament sit on Friday — the clearest sign yet the government plans to bring Theresa May’s European Union divorce deal back for a third vote. Lawmakers in the House of Commons can sit on Fridays if they agree to do so. He says “while I appreciate it may cause some inconvenience, I hope all members would agree that it’s better to have it and to not need it, than to need it and not have it.” But it remains unclear whether the measure will be proposed. Commons Speaker John Bercow said Wednesday he would not accept another vote on the twice-rejected deal unless substantial changes were made.

British lawmakers will get to vote on eight widely differing options for the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow selected the motions on Wednesday from 16 proposals submitted by lawmakers. The ones to be considered include calls to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal, to stay in the EU’s customs union and single market, to put any EU divorce deal to a public referendum, and to cancel Brexit if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit gets close. The “indicative votes” are intended to reveal if any kind of Brexit plan can command a majority in Parliament. Lawmakers have twice rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the bloc. The government has promised to consider the outcome of the votes, but not to be bound by them. British Prime Minister Theresa May has faced more calls to resign during a bruising question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.

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