After a tumultuous week in which May’s divorce strategy was rejected by lawmakers for a third time, despite her offer to quit if it passed, the future direction of Brexit remains mired in confusion.
In a bid to break the impasse, lawmakers on April 1 voted on four alternative Brexit options, but all four options were defeated.
The option that came closest to getting a majority was a proposal to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU. That option was defeated by three votes.
A proposal for a confirmatory referendum on any deal got the most votes, but was defeated 292-280.
Brexit minister Steven Barclay said after the results were announced that the default position was still that Britain would leave the EU on April 12 without a deal to soften the economic dislocation of an abrupt departure.
March 29, the third defeat of May’s own withdrawal agreement left one of the weakest British leaders in a generation facing a spiraling crisis over Brexit, the United Kingdom’s most far-reaching policy change since World War Two.
Her government and her Conservative Party, which has been trying to contain a schism over Europe for 30 years, are now riven between those who are demanding that May pilot a decisive break with the bloc and those demanding that she rule out such an outcome.
If May were to throw her weight behind either camp, she would risk tearing her party apart and bringing down the government. Some Conservative lawmakers have warned they will support a motion of no confidence if she accepts calls for a Brexit that maintains many of the existing close economic ties with the EU.
Britain had been due to leave the EU on March 29 but the political deadlock in London forced May to ask the bloc for a delay. As things stand, Britain will now depart on April 12—unless May comes up with another viable option.
By Kylie MacLellan & William James