LONDON (Reuters) – Parliament will again try to take control of Britains departure from the European Union on Monday, with some lawmakers hoping to force Prime Minister Theresa May to drop her Brexit strategy and pursue close economic ties with the bloc.
Mays deal, which has been defeated by lawmakers three times even after she promised to step down if it passed, was further dented when her own parliamentary enforcer said a softer Brexit was inevitable after she lost her majority in a 2017 election.
Three days after the date on which Britain was originally due to leave the EU, it was still uncertain how, when or even if the United Kingdom would ever say goodbye to the bloc it first joined 46 years ago.
The third defeat of Mays divorce deal left one of the weakest leaders in a generation facing a spiralling crisis over Brexit, the United Kingdoms most significant move since World War Two.
Underlining how uncertainty is hurting business, the UK head of German industrial giant Siemens, Juergen Maier, said Britain was wrecking its reputation for stability and he urged lawmakers to back a customs union with the EU.
Parliament will vote on different Brexit options on Monday, possibly showing a majority backing for a customs union, and then May could try one last roll of the dice by bringing her deal back to a vote in parliament as soon as Wednesday.
Mays government and her party, which has grappled with a schism over Europe for 30 years, was in open conflict between those pushing for a customs union with the EU and eurosceptics who are demanding a cleaner break with the bloc.
Mays chief whip, responsible for party discipline, said the government should have been clearer that Mays loss of her majority in parliament in a snap 2017 election would “inevitably” lead it to accept a softer Brexit.
“The government as a whole probably should have just been clearer on the consequences of that,” Julian Smith told the BBC in an interview published on Monday.
“The parliamentary arithmetic would mean that this would be inevitably a kind of softer type of Brexit,” said Smith, who also said ministers had tried to undermine the prime minister.
Their behaviour, he said, was the “worst example of ill-discipline in cabinet in British political history”.
Asked about his comments, Mays spokesman said: “The PM made it clear that there was a need to bring the country back together after the Brexit vote and that is what they (the government) are working to achieve.”
On the lack of discipline in government, he said Brexit had brought “out strong emotions” on all sides of the debate.
For EU officials watching from Brussels, there was one plea – please make up your minds.
“A sphinx is an open book compared to the UK,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president. “Nobody knows where it is heading. Would like to make the sphinx talk and tell us in which direction they would like to go.”
In a 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, backed staying. But ever since, opponents of Brexit have sought to soften, or even stop, the divorce.
Parliament is due to vote at about 1900 GMT on Monday on a range of alternative Brexit options selected by Speaker John Bercow from nine proposals put forward by lawmakers, including a no-deal exit, preventing a no-deal exit, a customs union, or a second referendum.
The Times newspaper said May had been warned by some senior ministers that she faced resignations if she agreed to pursue a softer Brexit and now several lawmakers say they can only see a general election as offering a pathway to a solution – something May, so far, has ruled out.
Eurosceptic lawmakers Steve Baker, a member of her Conservative Party, suggested that any backing for a customs union could push him tRead More