Parliament plots Brexit Plan B after sidelining PM

London: Britain’s parliament sought a new Brexit approach on Tuesday after seizing the initiative from Prime Minister Theresa May in a historic vote taken to stave off a looming “no-deal” divorce.
Lawmakers exasperated by Britain’s failed efforts to split from the European Union after three years of debates and negotiations voted on Monday to give themselves a broader say on what happens next.
The motion creates parliamentary time for MPs to come up with their own proposals in place of the ill-loved deal May struck with Brussels at the end of last year.
The unprecedented measure passed by a 329-302 margin and saw three junior ministers quit the government to vote against the premier.
Richard Harrington said he resigned as business minister because May’s course and the resulting impasse had left Britain with “a democratic deficit”.
Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said he quit to help the House of Commons “come to a conclusion for the country’s sake”.
The measure was backed primarily by europhiles who want to either reverse Brexit or preserve much closer economic ties with the remaining 27 EU states.
They represent the views of roughly half the voters in a deeply divided that is still coming to terms with the outcome of the 2016 Brexit vote.
No one is entirely sure how parliament will approach its new role in the week the 46-year partnership was scheduled to have ended.
EU leaders pushed back Brexit day to April 12 after meeting May in Brussels last week and deciding that Britain still did not know what it wanted to do.
The proposed agenda submitted to parliament on Tuesday would see MPs first pick through an array of choices on Wednesday.
“We may then change the system for next week as we are trying to narrow it down,” co-sponsor Hilary Benn told BBC radio.
The biggest worry for May is a mooted plan for parliament in the following days to take an even firmer grip of the Brexit agenda by passing legislation that forces the government’s hand.
Parliament’s initial votes will be non-binding instructions that only carry political weight.
May has already signalled that she might ignore them if they contradict her Conservative party’s 2017 election platform.
It included a vow to take Britain out of the EU customs union and single market — the two vast organisations that open borders and regulate trade across most of the European continent.
But Burt said he resigned precisely because he felt that the “government should adopt any feasible outcome as its own in order to progress matters”.
Parliament is now effectively re-considering how to go about Brexit all over again.
Everything is back on the table and May’s deal — twice resoundingly rejected by lawmakers this year — is just one of a half-dozen or so approaches that may be up for debate.
May herself admitted “with great regret” On Monday that there was “still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote”.
Her efforts to bring onside anti-EU rebels in her own party have been fruitless despite months of talks.
But there are some hints that the current political shift could be scaring some of the rebels into line.
Brexit hardliner Jacob Rees-Mogg — who heads the ultra-conservative European Research Group (ERG) group in May’s party — conceded on a political podcast on Tuesday that “Mrs May’s deal is better than not leaving at all”.
“Securing the backing of a high profile ERG member like Rees-Mogg — albeit reluctantly — could dramatically improve May’s numbers,” said Oanda trading house analyst Craig Erlam.
“It’s now just a question of whether it’s too little too late.”
But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that supports May in parliament continues to oppose the agreement.
It remains unclear when — or even if — May will bring it back for a vote although the government has hinted this could happen on Thursday. — AFP