UK’s Theresa May ponders fourth vote on Brexit deal

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament next week for a fourth attempt at gaining MPs’ backing, British media reported. 

May will continue to seek support for her deal as MPs are set to hold another set of votes on various options on Monday, a government source told the BBC on Saturday.

Lawmakers rejected May’s Brexit deal for a third time on Friday, leaving Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in turmoil on the day it was originally due to leave the bloc. The UK is now set to exit on April 12 by legal default.

Several leave-supporting Conservative MPs who had twice rejected May’s deal, supported the agreement on Friday. But with the Labour Party and the Democratic Unionist Party opposed to the plan, a majority vote was unachievable.

Alternative plan

With parliament and the government deadlocked on May’s deal, it remains unclear how, when or even whether Britain will leave the EU. 

But on Monday lawmakers will try to agree on an alternative Brexit plan that could command majority cross-party support.

The options that have so far gathered the most support involve closer ties to the EU and a second referendum. 

The chairman of May’s Conservative Party, Brandon Lewis, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The government’s position is very clear – we do not support these options. The government’s position is we believe the best way to respect the referendum is to deliver the deal.”

He added that all options were on the table for how to get Britain out of its Brexit impasse.

Lewis said however that seeking a customs union with the European Union would be difficult and would go against the result of the referendum and Conservative pledges before the 2017 national election.

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated in London last week, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal [Kevin Coombs/Reuters]

The BBC also reported that government officials had not ruled out the possibility of a run-off vote in parliament between the most popular option proposed by lawmakers and May’s deal.

Next steps

While the UK is now scheduled to leave the bloc in two weeks, the government may seek a longer extension, although such a move would require Britain to contest the upcoming European Parliament elections. An extension would also need the unanimous support of all other 27 EU member states.

EU leaders have said the UK would have to provide a clear strategy in order to secure a longer extension.

This week, the British parliament held a series of non-binding votes on a number of alternative Brexit plans, in an attempt to see if a majority could be found for a new approach. Of the eight plans put to the vote, none won majority support.

May said legislators would continue on Monday to try and “see if there is a stable majority for a particular alternative version of our future relationship with the EU”, adding that any plan would also require MPs to back the withdrawal agreement.

Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat MP, told Al Jazeera that while May’s deal is “as dead as a dodo”, he was confident Parliament would take the initiative on breaking the Brexit impasse next week.

“What happens on Monday is that process of Parliament taking control of this continues,” he said.

“We have a day booked, where what I expect to happen is that some of the options that were debated earlier in the week will be refined, perhaps joined together, and I think we will see a majority potentially emerge around one of those options.”

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