LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May may face defeat in Parliament on Thursday for wanting to renegotiate the Brexit deal and undermine her promise to the European Union that she can get her approval.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is seen on 13th February 2019 off Downing Street in London (UK). REUTERS / Hannah McKay
Thursday's symbolic vote was little more than a stamp on the May plan to bring about changes to the divorce agreement with the EU, giving it more time to satisfy legislators' concerns about a part of the issue Irish backstop.
However, Brexit hardline supporters in their ruling conservative party are upset over what they say is their assumption to rule out a no-deal exclusion, something May and their team deny. Britain will leave the EU on 29 March, with or without agreement.
The most recent twist in the two-year EU exit negotiations underscores the deep division in Parliament over whether or not Britain should leave the bloc in the country's biggest political and trade shift in more than 40 years.
A rebellion, even in a symbolic vote, would be a blow to May, who asserted to the EU leaders that, if they made more concessions to the agreement reached in November, they could command a majority in Parliament and approve the agreement.
"It is important that the Members of Parliament today support the Prime Minister to send another clear message to Brussels, that Parliament's concerns about the system of restraint need to be addressed so that we can leave punctually on 29 March with an agreement May spokesman told reporters.
A government source expressed it bluntly. "Without the support of MPs, it will be more difficult for the government to make the changes to the attacks that we know they want," the source said.
Steve Baker, a member of the Pro-Brexit European Research Group of Conservative Legislators, said no legislator in the ruling party should be linked to anything that seems to leave a "no deal brexit" off the table.
"No compromise would be the most difficult negotiating strategy and not in the national interest," he said on Twitter.
A conservative legislator said the ERG is still debating which strategy should be followed on Thursday – against voting or abstaining, while another legislator said the government is trying to divide the group to try and get some of it convince to support May's deal.
May endeavors to make changes to the backstop agreement to prevent the return of border controls between Northern Ireland and EU Member Ireland in order to alleviate concerns that Britain will remain too closely orbited in the EU for an indefinite period of time the British province is split off.
European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday that the bloc was waiting for Britain, after talks in Brussels and telephone conversations between May and EU leaders, to come forward with solid proposals to overcome the deadlock.
Some conservative and many opposition legislators are accusing May of "slowing down the clock" of bringing Britain closer to the point of departure and trying to force parliament to decide whether to support their deal or go without an agreement.
Many companies say that this result would be a disaster for the world's fifth largest economy, as it causes delays in ports, shatters international supply chains and hampers investment.
More than 40 former British ambassadors called on the government to extend Britain's stay in the EU or to allow a second referendum, the Times reported. May has repeatedly stated that she does not support a second voice.
In order to prevent any agreement being reached, several legislators will try to get Parliament to support their alternative proposals on Thursday. These include options such as a second referendum, a Brexit delay and even a setback on the decision to leave the EU.
It is unclear whether anyone will gain enough support if the legislature forces the government to postpone Brexit, and says it will wait until the next round of May's May 27 election.
Additional coverage by William James and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Janet Lawrence