herald

Tuesday 19 November 2019

May could map out her exit in desperate bid to win over MPs

British PM Theresa May
British PM Theresa May

British prime minister Theresa May will address her Conservative MPs today, possibly to set out a timetable for her departure in a last throw of the dice to win support for her twice-rejected Brexit deal.

At her weakest after parliament seized control of Brexit on Monday, Mrs May has yet to give up hope of winning approval for her deal to leave the European Union.

Parliament's move seemed to have focused minds, with some eurosceptic MPs saying they could back her plan before choosing a new leader for the next phase of talks with the EU.

However, her DUP power- brokers remain opposed.

One Conservative MP said Mrs May's decision to address the party's so-called 1922 Committee this afternoon suggested she could set her date of departure to win over support.

Others cast doubt on whether the prime minister, who has so far weathered at least two attempts to oust her, would commit to step down without a firm guarantee of support for her deal.

Mrs May could try to bring her deal back to parliament tomorrow for a third vote, but her spokesman said the government would do that only if it had a chance of winning.

He said Mrs May would "engage constructively" with MPs who seized control of Brexit in parliament on Monday, but gave them a warning - there is no point supporting different options that the EU will not negotiate.

MPs will debate the alternative Brexit options this afternoon before holding so-called indicative votes. They will be able to support as many options as they like.

The votes could indicate there is no majority in parliament for any alternative course of action, or else a majority for several. MPs plan to take control of parliamentary business again on April 1 to further narrow down the options.

Compel

By last night, several proposals had emerged for today's voting.

One motion would compel the government to negotiate a new UK-EU customs union after Brexit.

The threat of a softer Brexit or long-delayed departure was focusing minds among hardline critics of Mrs May's deal.

"I have always thought that no-deal is better than Mrs May's deal. But Mrs May's deal is better than not leaving at all," said Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of a Conservative faction demanding a clean break from the EU.

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