LONDON (AP) – Prime Minister Theresa May was battling to defeat a revolt from members of her own government yesterday as lawmakers try to prevent her from taking Britain out of the European Union (EU) a month from now without a divorce deal.
Three Junior Government Ministers wrote in the Daily Mail that they would vote with opposition lawmakers to stop a no-deal departure unless May agrees to delay Brexit and guarantee “we are not swept over the precipice on March 29”.
May insists Britain will leave the EU on schedule, even though she still hasn’t managed to win Parliament’s approval for her divorce agreement with the bloc.
But with pressure mounting within the government and EU leaders saying a delay may be the only rational solution to the crisis, May could be forced to change course.
She is due to update Parliament on Brexit, before a series of votes today in which pro-EU lawmakers will try to force the government to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit and to seek an extension to the Brexit date if Parliament fails to back her deal.
Businesses warn that without a deal Britain risks a chaotic departure that could disrupt trade between the United Kingdom (UK) and the EU, its biggest trading partner.
The uncertainty has already led many British firms to shift some operations abroad, stockpile goods or defer investment decisions.
British lawmakers rejected May’s deal with the EU last month – largely over concerns about provision to guarantee an open border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland – and sent May back to Brussels to get changes.
The EU is adamant that the legally binding withdrawal agreement can’t be changed, though the bloc’s negotiators are holding talks with UK Attorney General Geoffrey Cox about potential tweaks or additions around the margins.
May has said a new vote on any revised Brexit deal won’t be held this week and could come as late as March 12.
Both May’s governing Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are deeply split over Brexit, and there is no quick or easy way to break the political impasse.
Labour on Monday took a step toward campaigning for a new Brexit referendum as a way to break the deadlock. The left-of-centre party said it would back a second public vote if the House of Commons rejects its alternative Brexit plan.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said the public should be given a vote on whether to accept May’s deal or to remain in the EU.