Theresa May reaches out to rivals in Brexit deadlock
British Prime Minister Theresa May faces deadlock on Thursday over a new Brexit plan, after narrowly surviving a no-confidence vote sparked by the crushing defeat of her EU withdrawal deal.
With the clock ticking, May has appealed to opposition leaders to meet for cross-party talks before she presents an alternative proposal to parliament on Monday.
But her opponents have set out a list of demands for cooperating — including ruling out the possibility that Britain would leave the EU in March without any deal at all.
The embattled leader conceded the divorce terms she struck with the EU had been roundly rejected after MPs delivered the heaviest government defeat in parliament in modern British political history on Tuesday – 432 votes to 202.
“Now MPs have made clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what parliament does want,” May said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening, after winning a no-confidence vote triggered by the opposition Labour party.
She set out a schedule of cross-party talks that began immediately with meetings with the Scottish nationalist, Welsh nationalist and the pro-EU Liberal Democrat leaders.
“We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House,” she had told parliament earlier.
But opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would only meet May if she could “remove clearly, once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit”.
May said she was “disappointed” by Corbyn’s decision and stressed that “our door remains open”.
On Wednesday evening her spokesman said the possibility of a “no deal” was still on the table.
Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party (SNP) said his party would only participate if she was prepared to consider delaying Brexit, ruling out a “no deal” and the option of holding a second referendum.
May has flatly rejected a second vote.
The prime minister is working to the tightest-possible deadline as Britain prepares to leave the bloc that for half a century defined its economic and political relations with the rest of the world.
Her defeat sparked warnings from European leaders that the prospect of “no deal” had increased, with the potential for huge economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.
May must return to parliament on Monday with a Plan B that she and her team intend to negotiate with various MPs through the weekend.
Her offer to meet with the opposition “rings hollow without evidence of her readiness to compromise on the substance of Brexit”, the Guardian newspaper said, pushing for a “menu of options” to be presented to parliament.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph warned that parliament “may be planning a betrayal”.
“After two-and-a-half years, Plan B is to let parliament take over,” the Telegraph said. “At least it is a plan; but is parliament capable of delivering on the referendum result, or is this the start of a great betrayal of that vote?”