LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain advised Conservative lawmakers on Wednesday that she would step down if Parliament permitted her plan for withdrawal from the European Union.
“I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party,” Mrs. May advised the lawmakers. “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.”
The prime minister didn’t specify when she would step down. But the European Union has mentioned that it might approve an extension within the Brexit course of to May 22, if her plan gained approval.
The resolution to set a time for stepping down had been urged by her advisers as the one approach to garner sufficient votes to get the plan by means of Parliament. Many Conservatives have been deeply annoyed together with her management and say a brand new chief is required for the subsequent part of talks with Brussels.
The technique shift appeared to pay dividends, with previously fierce opponents of her plan, together with Boris Johnson, the previous international secretary, anticipated to declare that they’d now vote in favor.
Mrs. May’s plan would keep customs and commerce ties with the European Union till not less than the top of 2020, however envisions chopping these ties finally.
Mrs. May’s promise overshadowed what had already been a momentous day, as Parliament took management of the Brexit course of and ready to vote on a sequence of choices.
The developments got here amid a deepening disaster in British politics, with the federal government disintegrating, the cupboard paralyzed and Mrs. May shifting methods seemingly by the day.
Parliament’s transfer may show to be a rare turning level, as members weigh alternate options that Mrs. May has refused to put earlier than them. In the method, a brand new consensus may emerge throughout get together strains. Or, within the believable occasion that the lawmakers show unable to agree on something, the voting could add to the chaos.
All of that is unfolding earlier than an more and more annoyed and cynical public that’s asking questions on British democracy and the political elite, and whether or not both is able to governing within the nationwide curiosity. In the meantime, the world seems on at Britain’s follies in bewilderment.
“If you compared Britain to a sphinx, the sphinx would be an open book by comparison,” Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, advised the European Parliament on Wednesday at a gathering in Strasbourg, France. “Let’s see how that book speaks over the next week or so.”
In another rebuff for Mrs. May, lawmakers saw off an effort by the government on Wednesday afternoon to stop the votes, defeating the measure by 331 votes to 287. The speaker of the house, John Bercow, selected eight Brexit plans to be voted on, including several that would keep Britain closely tied to the European Union, in a so-called soft Brexit. Others would see Britain leaving without any deal, require an exit agreement be confirmed in a referendum or cancel Brexit completely.
Mr. Bercow also repeated an earlier ruling that if Mrs. May tried to bring back her plan for a vote soon, she would have to satisfy him that it was different from the version that has failed. In his statement, Mr. Bercow warned that he would not allow procedural devices to circumvent his decision.
Lawmakers have already twice rejected the Brexit agreement that Mrs. May painstakingly negotiated with the European Union, each time by large margins. Last week, European Union leaders agreed to Britain’s request to delay its departure, which had been set to take effect on Friday, to avoid a chaotic exit without a deal in place.
But time is short, and Europe has grown frustrated with the deadlock. Under the terms of the postponement, if Parliament does not accept Mrs. May’s deal, the new deadline will be April 12.
The European Union is “expecting the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said at the meeting in Strasbourg.
But European leaders reiterated that they were still open to a long Brexit delay — perhaps two years — if, as Mr. Tusk said, “the U.K. wishes to rethink its Brexit strategy.” That delay would have to be agreed to by April 12, just 16 days away.
Mrs. May’s plan could return to Parliament later this week if she gets more pledges of support like that of Mr. Johnson’s. But most important for the plan’s fortunes is the opinion of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, or D.U.P., whose 10 lawmakers usually support the government but currently oppose Mrs. May’s Brexit blueprint.
Her plan is, in essence, a hard Brexit, since it would rule out Britain’s remaining in the European Union’s customs union and the single market, and put the country beyond the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. But it contains a “backstop” to ensure against a hard Irish border that the hard-Brexit crowd has found impossible to accept.
On Tuesday, Mrs. May gained important backing when Jacob Rees-Mogg, an influential leader of the hard Brexiteers, said he could support her plan if the D.U.P. went along. The party has vehemently resisted the backstop, saying it would lead to the dissolution of Britain and the unification of Ireland.
On Wednesday, as the D.U.P. showed few signs of capitulating, Mr. Rees-Mogg went further, saying he would support the May plan if the party merely abstained.
On Wednesday, the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative lawmaker, told the BBC there was a “real possibility” that Mrs. May’s plan could return for a vote as soon as Thursday.
Still, a third attempt to pass it would be a very tall order: Mrs. May would need to win the support of about 70 lawmakers who have already voted against it twice. If she managed that, she would almost certainly have quashed Parliament’s rebellion and ensured that Brexit would take place soon and on her terms.
On Wednesday, the focus was on the extraordinary parliamentary proceedings, orchestrated by a multiparty group led by a veteran Conservative lawmaker, Oliver Letwin.
Lawmakers will be allowed to vote for as many of the eight options as they want. In the first instance, that is very unlikely to produce clarity, and another day of debate and votes will probably be required on Monday.
The government has said that it will not be bound by any result of these “indicative votes.” But some lawmakers are threatening that, if necessary, they will try to legislate to force the government to accept any consensus that ultimately emerges.
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