Brexit in meltdown - Theresa May under pressure to forge softer divorce deal

Minnie Murray
April 1, 2019

But to be clear, unlike Tory Brexiters, DUP MPs won't be terrified by the prospect of the United Kingdom staying in the customs union, because that would in practice turn the backstop they hate from putative trap into the bridge the EU always hoped it would be.

"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. "Sometimes you do have to accept your second or third choice in order to avoid an outcome you consider to be even worse".

Conservative Party deputy chairman James Cleverly said on Sunday that the party was not preparing for a snap election. It allows continued participation in the single market and a "comprehensive customs arrangement" with the European Union after Brexit - including a "UK say" on future European Union trade deals - would remain in place until the agreement of a wider trade deal which guarantees frictionless movement of goods and an open border in Ireland. Ministers are considering an unprecedented parliamentary "run off" pitting Mrs May's deal against the soft Brexit option chosen by MPs in the hope of focusing the minds of Tory eurosceptics.

Friday, April 12: The deadline for Mrs May to agree a way forward with the European Union if she still has not got her deal through or see Britain leave in a no-deal Brexit.

That, it seems, will be easier said than done because Ms May now just controls the Parliament and her own Conservative Party in name only; the main opposition party leader, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, continues to sit on the fence and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party - which is propping up her lame-duck government - maintains its intransigence on the backstop issue. Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker, who resigned as a Brexit minister over the PM's handling of negotiations, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Mrs May's deal "cannot be allowed to go through at any cost".

None of MPs' eight proposed options secured a majority in the first set of indicative votes on 27 March, but those which received the most were a customs union with the EU and a referendum on any deal. On Monday, MPs have a non-binding vote on a series of options created to test the will of Parliament.

To avoid that, Mrs May can try to seek a further Brexit extension from the European Union, which is likely to require voting for MEPS in new European Union elections.

Any move to accept a customs union would infuriate Brexiteers and would nearly certainly lead to ministerial resignations.

He added: "I think we also have to recognise my party does not have the votes to get its manifesto position through the House of Commons at the moment".

But May's government is considering a fourth vote on her deal, bolstered by their success in narrowing her margin of defeat to 58 votes Friday from 230 votes in January.

Labour's foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, said it could try to call a vote of no confidence in May's government. He said: "Whatever the deal looks like - and we understand there has to be compromises - if it's underpinned by a People's Vote that is the way we can bring the country back together".

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