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British Parliament Turns Down Alternatives to PM May’s Twice Rejected Deal for Leaving EU

The House of Commons took over Brexit from Prime Minister Theresa May, who had failed to secure approval of a deal

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Tellers announce the results of the vote on Brexit alternatives in Parliament in London, March 27, 2019. in this screen grab taken from video. VOA

Britain’s Parliament on Wednesday turned down multiple alternatives to the government’s twice-rejected deal for leaving the European Union, leaving the future of Brexit more uncertain than ever.

The House of Commons took over Brexit from Prime Minister Theresa May, who had failed to secure approval of a deal.

Lawmakers began debate Wednesday with 16 separate plans. Negotiators reduced that number to eight, which were brought to votes. All were rejected.

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Speaker of the House John Bercow announces the results of the vote on Brexit options in Parliament in London, March 27, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. VOA

Among the alternatives turned down was one that would have kept Britain in a customs union with the EU, and one that would have put the question of leaving the EU to another referendum.

The EU has given Britain until April 12 to let members know what it plans to do, or it will leave the EU with no exit plan in place, which could lead to economic chaos.

 Stephen Barclay, Britain’s Brexit secretary, said the fact that eight different proposals failed was another sign that May’s plan “was the best option.”

May said Wednesday that she would step down as prime minister “earlier than I intended” if lawmakers adopted the plan she negotiated with the EU.

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Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Stephen Barclay speaks after the results of the vote on Brexit options in Parliament in London, March 27, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. VOA

“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,” she said.

May has said she will consider support for other plans as “indicative votes,” but has refused to say whether she will adhere to the result.

Vote led to turmoil

Britons voted nearly three years ago to leave the EU. But as last week’s scheduled departure date grew near, so did turmoil over terms of the deal May negotiated with EU leaders.

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, ahead of votes on Brexit options, in London, March 27, 2019. VOA

The contention over May’s plan centers on trade and the border crossing between EU member Ireland and British-controlled Northern Ireland, which local residents routinely cross daily without stopping.

May hopes to put her plan up for another vote, despite the decisive earlier losses.

 

ALSO READ: More Families Crossing Southern US Border Triggers US Customs and Border Protection

Pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party had called for her resignation, but until Wednesday she had resisted.

“It is my sense of responsibility and duty that has meant I have kept working to ensure Brexit is delivered,” she said.

Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn contended May was “unable to compromise and unable to reunite the country.” He said May must “either listen and change course or go.” (VOA)

Next Story

Britain’s Prime Minister Battles to Keep Brexit

Barnier said Thursday that “getting an agreement is in everybody's interest” and that “something has to change” to secure a divorce deal.

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DUP Party leader Arlene Foster and Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, left, make a statement to the media after exiting 10 Downing Street. London, Jan. 17, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May is reaching out to opposition parties and other lawmakers to put Brexit back on track. (VOA)

British Prime Minister Theresa May was consulting opposition parties and other lawmakers Thursday in a battle to put Brexit back on track after surviving a no-confidence vote, though there was little immediate sign of a breakthrough from talks branded a “stunt” by the main opposition leader.

European Union countries were stepping up preparations for a disorderly British exit on March 29 after the U.K. Parliament rejected May’s Brexit withdrawal deal with the bloc.

Lawmakers threw out the deal Tuesday, in a crushing defeat for May, who suffered the worst parliamentary defeat in modern British history.

The drubbing was followed by a no-confidence vote in the government, but May’s minority Conservative government survived it on Wednesday night with backing from its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party.

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Prime Minister Theresa May sits down in Parliament after the vote on May’s Brexit deal, in London, Britain, Jan. 15, 2019 in this image taken from video. VOA

May said she would hold talks “in a constructive spirit” with leaders of opposition parties and other lawmakers in a bid to find a way forward for Britain’s EU exit.

The government confirmed that May will meet a Monday deadline to publish a Plan B, and that lawmakers will have a full day to debate it – and, crucially, amend it – on Jan. 29.

There was little sign of a breakthrough in uniting Parliament’s feuding Brexit factions, whose conflicting demands range from a postponement of Britain’s departure date to a new referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he wouldn’t meet with May until she took a no-deal Brexit “off the table.”

“To get a deal that can command a majority in Parliament, Theresa May has to ditch the red lines and get serious about proposals for the future,” Corbyn said during a speech to supporters in the English seaside town of Hastings.

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Anti-Brexit demonstrators react after the results of the vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal were announced in Parliament square in London, Jan. 15, 2019.VOA

“Last night’s offer of talks with party leaders turned out to be simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that’s needed,” he said.

Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas, who met with May on Thursday morning, said the prime minister was “in a fantasy world” if she thought the deal could be transformed by Monday.
“Parliament is gridlocked,” she said.

May so far has showed little inclination to make major changes to her deal or lift her insistence that Brexit means leaving the EU’s single market and customs union. Many lawmakers think a softer departure that retained single market or customs union membership is the only plan capable of winning a majority in Parliament. They fear the alternative is an abrupt “no-deal” withdrawal from the bloc, which businesses and economists fear would cause turmoil.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a longtime Labour Party leader, told the BBC on Thursday that it would be “sensible” for Corbyn to meet with May to better define the type of Brexit that Britain wants. He warned that a “no-deal” Brexit would do substantial harm to Britain’s economy.

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Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

As Britain flounders, the 27 other EU countries have stood firm, saying they won’t renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and insisting the British government and its lawmakers to decide what they want to do.

Some British lawmakers want May to call for an extension of negotiations with the EU and postpone the March 29 deadline to leave the bloc, while others are lobbying for a second Brexit referendum.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a special government meeting Thursday on planning to cope with a “no-deal” Brexit.

The French parliament adopted a law Wednesday allowing emergency measures after March 30 in the event Britain leaves without a deal.

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Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party, talks during a no-confidence debate after Parliament rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

Such measures could aim to reduce problems in cross-border trade and transport, notably through the Eurotunnel beneath the English Channel, and allow British workers and retirees based in France temporary permission to stay until a longer-term deal is worked out.

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, EU leaders accused Britain of trying to “cherry pick” benefits of membership in the bloc, seeking to retain access to the EU’s single market while ending the free movement of European citizens into Britain and breaching other EU guiding principles.

Also Read: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May Survives Through Vote Of No-Confidence

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who said Wednesday that he was more concerned than ever that Britain could crash out of the EU without an agreement, said the red lines set out by Britain’s negotiators had “shut doors.”

Barnier said Thursday that “getting an agreement is in everybody’s interest” and that “something has to change” to secure a divorce deal.

“If (the red lines) change, we’ll change,” Barnier said after meeting Portuguese officials in Lisbon. (VOA)