British Prime Minister Theresa May urged members of parliament on Monday to take a “second look” at her deal to leave the European Union, a last-ditch effort to win over a parliament that looks set to reject the agreement.
The fate of the United Kingdom’s March 29 exit from the EU is in the balance before Tuesday when parliament is widely expected to vote against Mrs May’s deal, opening up outcomes ranging from a disorderly divorce to reversing Brexit.
Mrs May used a speech at a china factory in the leave-supporting city of Stoke-on-Trent in central England to say that MPs blocking Brexit altogether was now a more likely outcome than Britain leaving without a deal.
She then returned to parliament, where Mrs May asked MPs to give her deal a chance, referring to the assurances she secured from Brussels and warning parliament it risked the break-up of the UK if it voted against the agreement.
“I say to members on all sides of this House [of Commons] – whatever you may have previously concluded – over these next 24 hours, give this deal a second look,” she said.
“No it is not perfect. And yes it is a compromise,” she said, telling them to think about how any decision will be judged in history books. “I say we should deliver for the British people and get on with building a brighter future for our country by backing this deal tomorrow.”
Mrs May has refused to budge over her deal despite criticism from all quarters. The agreement, which envisages close economic ties with the EU, has united the opposing sides of the debate – pro-EU MPs who see it as the worst of all worlds and Brexit supporters who say it will make Britain a vassal state.
Turning to her Conservative Party at a private meeting, Mr May again warned MPs against fuelling division in Britain over Brexit and against allowing the main opposition Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn from winning the upper hand.
“She said ... I just want you to focus on two things: we have to deliver Brexit ... and two that we’ve got to keep Jeremy Corbyn as far away from Number 10 [Downing Street] as possible,” MP Nadhim Zahawi said after the meeting, adding that Mrs May was relaxed.
But two Brexit supporters left the meeting early, saying they had not changed their minds on opposing her deal.
With a "no-deal" Brexit the default option if Mrs May’s deal is defeated, some MPs are planning to try to pull control of Brexit from the government.
But though Mrs May is weakened, the executive has significant powers, especially during times of crisis, so it was unclear how parliament would be able to take control of Brexit.
If her deal is defeated and the government is unable to have any amended version passed in the next three weeks, one suggestion is for senior lawmakers who chair parliamentary committees to come up with an alternative Brexit plan.
“What we need to do is find the solution,” said Nick Boles, one of the Conservative MPs behind the plan, who said he would vote for Mrs May’s deal. “And if the government can’t find the solution ... then parliament needs to,” he told BBC radio.