LONDON – Britain’s Parliament gets its chance Monday to offer a way forward on Britain’s divorce from the European Union with a series of votes on Brexit alternatives in an attempt to find the elusive idea that can command a majority.
The House of Commons is scheduled to consider a variety of Brexit options, with two ideas – staying in the EU customs union and holding a second referendum on Brexit – emerging as the most likely alternatives.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said Sunday the government would have to “very carefully consider” the wishes of Parliament, but continued to insist that Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce deal is still the best alternative. Gauke said May was “reflecting” on the possibility of bringing her deal back to Parliament for another vote even though it has already been rejected three times, most recently on Friday.
If the government can’t bridge the gap by April 12, Britain will crash out of the EU without a plan for future relations, damaging its economy, undermining the country’s unity and diminishing its stature in the world.
In the next two weeks, Britain is facing crunch domestic and international negotiations that will decide the fate of Brexit and determine the future of generations. May’s task, as it has been for almost three years, is to bridge the hostile divide that separates those who want to sever links with the EU and those who want to keep the ties that have bound Britain to the bloc for almost 50 years.
With the stakes building, the second guessing on May’s strategy is intensifying.
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In an extremely unusual move, Chief Whip Julian Smith, whose job is to ensure Conservative Party lawmakers vote for the government, told the BBC the government should have told people they would have to accept a softer form of exiting the European Union after May lost her majority in the 2017 general election.
Once weakened, Smith said, May “should have just been clearer the consequences of that, the parliamentary arithmetic, would mean that this would be inevitably a kind of softer type of Brexit.”