United Kingdom parliament leader: What game is European Union playing?

Leroy Wright
March 12, 2019

While she won both, parliament voted that she return to the negotiation table with the EU.

A protester with an anti-Theresa May placard is seen amid other protesters with European Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on 15 January 2019.

Several cabinet ministers have said May should announce her plans to resign to win the support of Tory Brexiters, who believe that a change in Number 10 would signal a more robust approach to talks on a future UK/EU trade deal.

Theresa May, the Remain-backing interior minister, becomes prime minister on 13 July.

The United Kingdom's tortuous crisis over European Union 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.

Pro-European ministers are in revolt over the risk of a "no deal" exit, while Brexit hardliners are livid that her promise of a decisive divorce appears to be receding.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told AFP the time had come for May to focus on negotiating with members of her own parliament rather than with the bloc. "We're two-and-a-half years, if not almost three years now, since the referendum", he said.

In a bid to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, May calls a snap general election for June 8, 2017. But some lawmakers want her to have Parliament consider different forms of Brexit to see if there is a majority for any course of action.

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.

At the heart of the dispute is a disagreement over how to manage the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

On 14 November, her cabinet backs the agreement after hours of heated debate.

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A rumored trip by May to meet EU leaders in Brussels on Monday has been shelved for now, though she spoke by phone to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

May hopes to secure changes to the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Her harsh words and Britain's immediate rejection of a proposal offered Friday by top European Union negotiator Michel Barnier signal exasperation as the days dwindle before a make or break vote Tuesday in Britain's Parliament on a deeply unpopular withdrawal plan.

On 12 December, enough Conservative MPs are unhappy with May's party leadership to trigger a confidence vote, but she wins by 200 to 117.

"An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons", they wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

With opposition parties and scores of Conservatives opposing it for various reasons, MPs vote by 432 to 202 against the deal - the worst defeat for a government in modern British political history.

"This is a government in chaos, with a country in chaos because of this mess", Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said. "If there's a public vote that would operate as a lock, if you like, on any deal that Theresa May get through".

The EU has repeatedly said it does not want to reopen the divorce deal, and the British government's top lawyer has failed to find a legal fix.

It comes ahead of tomorrow's second "meaningful vote" in the House of Commons on the Brexit deal.

May has spent the last week trying to gather support for her deal ahead of a "meaningful vote" in United Kingdom parliament next week. If parliament decides no, MPs vote again on Thursday on postponing the departure date.

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