Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May stands to talk to lawmakers inside the House of Commons parliament in London Wednesday March 27, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)

UK leader Theresa May makes final push on EU divorce deal

The EU has said the prime minister must secure approval for her deal by 11 p.m. U.K. time

British Prime Minister Theresa May rolled the dice Thursday on another Brexit vote in Parliament, sending a tweaked and trimmed version of her EU divorce deal back to lawmakers who had rejected it twice before.

There is still substantial opposition to the agreement, even after May sacrificed her job for her deal, promising to quit if lawmakers approved the agreement and let Britain leave the EU on schedule in May.

House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom announced that Parliament will vote Friday on the 585-page withdrawal agreement that sets out the terms of Britain’s departure — but not a shorter declaration on future ties that is also part of the divorce deal agreed between the U.K. and the EU late last year.

READ MORE: U.K. lawmakers reject having new Brexit referendum

Its removal altered the deal enough to overcome a ban on asking lawmakers the same question over and over again.

The EU has said the prime minister must secure approval for her deal by 11 p.m. U.K. time (2300GMT, 7 p.m. EDT) on Friday if the U.K. is to be given an automatic delay of its departure date from the bloc until May 22. Otherwise, Britain has until April 12 to announce a new plan, or leave the bloc without a deal.

Commons Speaker John Bercow had ruled that the government could not bring the rejected agreement back a third time unless it had been significantly changed. He said Thursday that the new government motion was “substantially different” and met that test.

The government says that if lawmakers pass the deal on Friday, Britain will be on course to leave the EU on May 22.

May pledged Wednesday night that she would resign if the deal was approved, in hopes of blunting opposition from lawmakers in her Conservative Party who have criticized her leadership.

May has been under mounting pressure to quit from pro-Brexit Conservatives, who accuse her of negotiating a bad divorce deal that leaves Britain too closely tied to the bloc after it leaves.

Some prominent opponents, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, quickly said they would back the Brexit agreement, but Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said it remained opposed because of concern that the deal treats the region differently from other parts of the U.K.

Almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, Brexit has brought the country’s political system to a standstill. The impasse has frustrated EU politicians trying to negotiate an exit agreement, and it has surprised observers around the world who had viewed Britain’s 1,000-year-old parliamentary system as a model of stability.

It has not always deserved that reputation. The British system works best when one party has a parliamentary majority and can pass legislation. Minority governments struggle and seldom last long. The current situation is almost unprecedented: Britain has a minority government and a lame-duck prime minister, with both main parties split down the middle over how and whether to leave the EU.

The gridlock has brought the country to the precipice of a chaotic departure from the EU.

Pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Ken Clarke said Parliament was mired in “confusion and mayhem.”

“We’ve wasted the first three years. We’re back almost at square one,” he said.

The prime minister’s resignation announcement came as U.K. lawmakers rejected eight alternatives to her Brexit deal in an attempt to find a plan that could break the stalemate.

The results of Wednesday’s “indicative votes” underscored the divisions in Parliament and the country over Brexit. The idea of remaining in a customs union with the EU came closest to winning a majority, with 264 lawmakers for it and 272 against. The most popular option was the idea of holding a second referendum on any Brexit deal approved by Parliament, which was backed by 268 lawmakers, but opposed by 295.

“We counted eight no’s last night. Now we need a yes on the way forward,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Thursday.

READ MORE: UK lawmakers prepare to vote on alternatives to Brexit deal

The plan is for the most popular ideas to move to a second vote Monday to find an option that can command a majority. Parliament would then instruct the government to negotiate that plan with the EU.

May has refused to say she will be bound by the results.

The architect of the votes said the inconclusive outcome meant a damaging no-deal Brexit was becoming more likely.

“At the moment, we are heading for a situation where, under the law, we leave without a deal on the 12th, which many of us think is not a good solution,” Conservative Party lawmaker Oliver Letwin told the BBC. “And the question is, is Parliament on Monday willing to come to any view in the majority about that way forward that doesn’t involve that result?”

Business groups expressed alarm at the impasse, which has left companies uncertain whether they will face tariffs, customs checks and other barriers to trade with the EU in just a couple of weeks.

“No one would run a business like this — and it is no way to run a country,” said Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

He told politicians to stop “chasing rainbows” and “start making tough decisions, however personally or politically difficult they might be.”

Labour Party legislator Margaret Beckett said lawmakers who had been “wedded to particular proposals” now needed to compromise in Britain’s national interest.

“They are going to have to look over the abyss,” she said.

Danica Kirka And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Only 13 new COVID-19 cases confirmed by Alberta gov’t Saturday

There’s currently only two active cases in province’s central zone

Central Alberta naturalists fear pristine headwaters will be contaminated by coal mine

Chutes of the Ram constitute one of Earth’s ‘most beautiful’ spots

Every Albertan eligible for COVID-19 testing

22 new cases confirmed on Friday

Lacombe Hospital Auxiliary sews 200 scrub bags for local healthcare workers

Bags were delivered to the hospital, the Community Care Centre and Royal Oak Dementia Care

Anna Maria’s Cafe opens at LMC after renovation hiatus

Operator: Guests are noticing the brightness of the space

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The Lacombe Express covers the stories that matter to you and to our community

PODCAST: The Expert tackles the return of sports

Cam Moon, Joe Whitbread, Byron Hackett and Todd Vaughan discuss how sports can come back

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

International student worry about pandemic as decisions loom on travel to Canada

Zohra Shahbuddin is weighing whether to enrol this fall or put off coming to Canada until next year

How finding a ministerial home for CMHC caused ‘madness’ in November

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. manages the national housing strategy

‘What do we do now?’ Labour dispute at Regina refinery nears 6 months

About 700 unionized workers were locked out by refinery owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., Dec. 5

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

Police need more than an unverified tip to avoid drug-case entrapment: top court

N.S. police received warnings in 2011 about man who would become mass killer

N.S. police received warnings in 2011 about man who would become mass killer

Trudeau acknowledges ‘anti-black racism’ in U.S., with ‘work to do in Canada’

Trudeau acknowledges ‘anti-black racism’ in U.S., with ‘work to do in Canada’

Most Read