British PM May mulls fourth try on Brexit deal

Theresa May could bring her deal back to the House of Commons for a fourth vote
Credit
Bloomberg /Simon Dawson

Theresa May could bring her deal back to the House of Commons for a fourth vote Credit Bloomberg /Simon Dawson

If no Parliamentary consensus is formed over the course of the "indicative votes" process on Monday, where various MPs will propose their own Brexit deals in the hope that the House can agree on a single deal that a majority of them support, the specter of a chaotic election grows ominous.

None of the eight options put to parliament last week won a majority, but there were signs of support for a softer Brexit.

The customs union allows businesses to move goods around the EU without checks or charges.

This was defeated by the smallest margin in the first round, falling just six votes short.

Friday's outcome now leaves May under pressure from rival parties to crash out of the European Union with no-deal, call an election, or amend a much softer withdrawal agreement.

Otherwise she will have to ask the bloc for a long extension or take Britain out of the European Union on April 12 with no deal to soften the economic shock.

If May's deal is rejected again, the prime minister will probably have to choose between a general election and negotiating a softer Brexit.

However he admitted deciding to vote for it on Thursday before being talked out of it by friends.

The Commons will stage a second round of "indicative" votes on Monday on a series of rival proposals tabled by backbenchers to see if any can command a majority. The intention is to see what outcome, if any, commands a majority.

Britain is edging closer to a general election after Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for a third time, deepening the political crisis that has overtaken the country's messy divorce from the European Union.

A customs union would allow businesses to move goods around the EU without checks or charges - but membership would bar the United Kingdom from striking independent trade deals after Brexit. The contest to pick May's successor will be whittled down to two candidates by Conservative lawmakers, but then ultimately go to party members for a vote.

"We have got to negotiate a free trade agreement, sort out where we are, but also as we get into the 2020s, we are going to have to pass the torch to a new generation".

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But a number of Labour MPs from leave-voting constituencies previously defied the party whip and voted against the proposal, making it hard to see where additional votes could come from.

'We are clearly going to have to consider very carefully the will of parliament, ' Gauke said.

When asked if Labour was a Remain party, Ms Thornberry replied: "In our hearts we want to remain but we have to square that with democracy. It doesn't change the instincts and convictions of people both in the Remain and in the Leave camp".

Ms Thornberry also said "it looks like the time may come" for another attempted no confidence vote in the government.

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The deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, James Cleverly, told Sky News that his party is doing "sensible pragmatic planning" in case there is a snap general election, but not seeking to call one.

Mr Gauke said he did not believe the idea was workable, saying: "I don't in all honesty think that it is practical".

The letter also spells out that May must stand by her party's manifesto pledge to leave the customs union in order to be able to strike post-Brexit trade deals with other countries. "We might be driven to it later but now is certainly not the moment".

It is unclear now how Britain's political parties would agree to cooperate on an issue like Brexit, which has split the country and its two major political parties - Mrs May's ruling Conservatives and Labour.

'The prime minister is reflecting on what the options are, and is considering what may happen but I don't think any decisions have been made, ' he told BBC TV.

However, a general election will need the approval of at least two-thirds of the British Parliament, and there's now no appetite for it in the Conservative benches. Stephen Laws, a former parliamentary counsel, and Richard Elkins, an Oxford University law professor, argue parliament would be abusing constitutional process and "the government might plausibly decide to advise Her Majesty not to assent".

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