May's Brexit deal has better chance of winning after MPs reject all "Plan B" options

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-28 07:19:54|Editor: Lu Hui
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LONDON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May's underfire Brexit deal was thrown a lifeline Wednesday after MPs rejected a shopping list of alternative options.

It now paves the way for May to return to the House of Commons over the next few days to ask lawmakers to hold a third meaningful vote on her deal.

It has already been rejected twice by margins of 230 and 149 respectively, with May's advisers saying they will not present it a third time unless it stands a good chance of winning.

With May struggling to win support for her deal, and with Brexit day approaching at express speed, MPs took the unusual step of taking control of the House of Commons Wednesday from government managers.

The more than 600 lawmakers spent the day debating their own options for Britain's future with the European Union.

In what was an unusual process for MPs, they were asked to select their favorites from a list of eight options.

Do they want a no deal, or a so-called Norway deal, how about a second referendum, or staying in the EU Customs Union. There was also the nuclear option of revoking article 50, the process that triggered Britain's countdown to Brexit in the first place.

As MPs awaited the results it emerged that May will resign as Prime Minister if her own Brexit deal is approved in the coming days.

The chances of May's deal edging towards winning was given a boost when big-name Conservatives Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, both said they would now support her deal.

If May succeeds in winning approval for her deal, Britain will leave the EU in May, almost two months later than the original March 29 exit date.

But the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which gives May's government its majority in parliament, said late Wednesday it will still oppose May's deal.

The aim of the indicative votes debated Wednesday by MPs was to find a consensus deal if May's own Brexit deal remains deadlocked.

Speaker John Bercow announced the option list after MPs voted on Monday that they would control the business of the House of Commons after Prime Minister Theresa May's own Brexit deal continued to face strong opposition.

Bercow announced the results, showing all eight were rejected by MPs. A plan put forward by the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, for Britain to leave the EU but remain close to its customs union, was lost by just 8 votes (272 to 264).

One option calling for a second referendum lost by 295 votes to 268, with supporters saying even though they lost, their option gained more votes than May's deal on its second outing.

After the results the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay urged MPs to now support May's deal.

He told MPs: "The results of the process this House (of Commons) has gone through today strengthens our view that the deal the government has negotiated is the best option.

"If you believe in delivering on the referendum result by leaving the EU with a deal, then it's necessary to back the Withdrawal Agreement - if we do not do that, then there are no guarantees about where this process will end.

"It's for that reason that I call on all members from across this House in the national interest to back the Prime Minister's deal."

May had faced calls over recent days for her to resign as prime minister as a price of support for her deal from opponents in her own Conservative Party.

She finally confirmed at a private meeting of her backbench MPs in the Houses of Parliament that she will quit if her deal is approved.

Downing Street issued details of what May said at her meeting.

She told her backbenchers: "This has been a testing time for our country and our party. We're nearly there. We're almost ready to start a new chapter and build that brighter future.

"I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach - and new leadership - in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations - and I won't stand in the way of that."

She told her MPs she is prepared to leave 10 Downing Street earlier than intended in order to do what is right for the country and the Conservative party.

"I ask everyone to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty, to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the EU with a smooth and orderly exit," she told the MPs.

Boris Johnson told the Daily his decision to back May's deal filled him with "pain" but was needed to prevent Parliament from "stealing Brexit".

"I've done this on behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit. I feel very, very sorry and though it fills me with pain, I'm going to have to support this thing," he said.

Conservative Party managers now face the task of winning over more MPs over the coming days to add to the growing number who have now changed their minds and said they will support the deal.

But political observers say there is still no guarantee that May's deal will get through a third time, and if it does it would be by the narrowest of margins. But that would bring to a stormy and messy end of Britain's membership of the EU.