LONDON – Lawmakers in the United Kingdom passed on Wednesday an amendment that would require Prime Minister Theresa May to present an alternative Brexit plan within a time frame three days if her current plan is voted down by parliament.
May, leader of the Conservative Party’s minority government, was facing an increasingly uphill struggle in her bid to push her government’s plan for a withdrawal from the European Union through parliament when the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of lawmaking, voted 308-297 in favor of the amendment submitted by Dominic Grieve, a pro-European from May’s own back-benches.
The amendment, approved by Conservative and Labour MPs, comes amid a cross-party move against the government as an effort to prevent the PM from using the threat of a no-deal Brexit, whereby the UK would crash out of the bloc with no future framework in place, as leverage to wind down the clock and convince MPs to back her plan, which she has presented as the only option available.
May is to submit her plan to the chamber on Jan. 15.
MPs embarked on a second day of debate in the Commons since proceedings recommenced in the new year almost a month after an initial parliamentary vote on the topic was postponed at the last minute to avoid an almost certain flop.
Grieve’s amendment to the motion was May’s second such setback in two days, after Labour Party backbencher Yvette Cooper successfully lodged a motion to limit the government’s ability to use taxpayer money in the case of a no-deal Brexit late Tuesday.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, exactly two years after May enacted Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to officially notify the European Commission of the UK’s decision to leave following a referendum in 2016.
Senior Labour officials, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, have advocated for a fresh general election in order to secure a better deal with the EU.
The EU has consistently said the package, which was agreed upon after two years of talks, was not up for re-negotiation.
The nature of Brexit is such that cross-party alliances have emerged in the Commons, uniting Conservative and Labour MPs in a call for a repeat referendum on Brexit, something that has come to be dubbed as the People’s Vote.
May and Corbyn have so far ruled this out.
Adding to May’s woes was the Democratic Unionist Party, a right-wing regional platform from Northern Ireland that props up the PM’s executive, which has threatened to shoot down the plan unless it gets further clarification on the terms and conditions of the Irish backstop.
The backstop would act as an insurance policy to maintain an open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event of no deal.
The pro-British DUP, however, has objected to the hypothetical situation that Belfast could, therefore, be held in regulatory alignment with Dublin rather than London.
All negotiating parties have expressed their desire to avoid the need for such a backstop.