LONDON/BRUSSELS—British Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to Strasbourg to seek concessions from the European Union in a last-ditch attempt to avoid another humiliating defeat in Parliament of her deal to exit the bloc.
Just 18 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU, there is still no ratified divorce deal and talks with the bloc stalled over the weekend as May felt she was unable to break the political deadlock in London.
In a day of frenetic diplomacy ahead of a March 12 parliamentary vote on her deal, May spoke to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in an effort to find a way through the Brexit maze.
May, who rejected a Brexit compromise hashed out in Brussels on March 9, left for Strasbourg on March 11.
“Please don’t assume this points to a deal,” a British official said. “It means there is basis for a further face to face discussion as part of the talks.”
May’s spokesman said a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on her deal would go ahead, even though talks with the EU are deadlocked.
European officials expressed frustration with May’s attempts to secure concessions with so little time left before Britain is due to leave on March 29.
The British Parliament voted to reject May’s deal in January by 230 votes, the biggest margin of defeat in modern British history. She has promised a new vote on March 12, hoping to deliver last-minute changes that would win over lawmakers.
If she loses that vote, she has promised to allow lawmakers further votes on whether to leave with no deal at all, or whether to ask for a delay in the deadline.
EU ambassadors were told by the bloc’s Brexit negotiators that a possible compromise was on the table, but May was unable to convince her ministers so she turned it down.
The United Kingdom’s tortuous crisis over EU membership is approaching its finale with an extraordinary array of outcomes still possible, including a delay, a last-minute deal, a no-deal Brexit, a snap election, or even another referendum. The country voted to leave the EU in a 2016 plebiscite.
The ultimate outcome remains unclear, though Brexit will define the United Kingdom’s prosperity for generations to come.
By Guy Faulconbridge, Elizabeth Piper, and Gabriela Baczynska