But it’s unclear where else she could turn: there is no majority support in parliament or in the electorate for any alternative to Mrs May’s deal or a no-deal Brexit, such as a second referendum or a closer relationship with the EU like that of Switzerland or Norway. She herself has said that if her deal is defeated she would be in “uncharted territory“.
“What parliament is doing with all these amendments is creating a dog’s breakfast where there is no majority for anything,” Prisons Minister Rory Stewart told the BBC.
Shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer said Mrs May now needed to work with parliament on a new plan that could command a majority.
“We’re going to have to look at what are the available options that realistically are still on the table, and what are the merits of each of them,” he told parliament.
“And I’m afraid that some of the options that may have been there a year or two ago are not there in the same shape and the same form as they would have been [before].”
Conservative rebel and former attorney-general Dominic Grieve said parliamentarians would only be able to strike a compromise if they transcended the various Brexit factions’ entrenched positions.
“Until we start having the dialogue that we have avoided, we’re not going to come to a sensible agreement,” he told the BBC. “It’s going to need people to listen to each other, and consider the national interest and rise above party political considerations.”
Mrs May’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told parliament the government was prepared to move quickly after the vote next week: “I want to reassure colleagues that whatever the outcome of this debate, we will respond rapidly,” he said.
Mr Barclay used his speech in the ongoing parliamentary debate on Mrs May’s deal to furtherthe government’s last-ditch effort to drum up supportfor her beleaguered deal.
He promised that parliament would get to vote on whether the controversial Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ would come into force if future free-trade deal talks between Britain and the EU foundered. But it’s unclear if this is a substantive concession, as Mrs May’s deal would see the backstop triggered automatically.
And the government released a 13-page paper pledging to enhance the influence of Northern Ireland’s parliament over issues affecting the province, even though the assembly has been suspended for two years.
Labour’s Mr Starmer said Mrs May may have to go to Brussels and ask the EU for an extension to the March 29 withdrawal deadline, which is governed by Article 50 of the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty.
On 2nd referendum with Remain vs Leave:
On 2nd referendum with Remain vs No Deal:
No Deal: 42%
On 2nd referendum with Remain vs Govt. Deal:
Govt. Deal: 37%
Via@YouGov, 21 Dec – 4 Jan
Sample size: 25,000— Election Maps UK (@ElectionMapsUK)January 5, 2019
“An extension of Article 50 may well be inevitable now, with the position we are in,” he told parliament. “I genuinely think that leaving with no deal would be catastrophic, and I genuinely think we can’t do it on [the] 29th of March this year – it’s simply not viable for so many practical reasons.”
Meanwhile, many MPs focused their ire on the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, who had permitted the latest vote to take place. They argued he had broken with precedent that allows the government to shape parliament’s proceedings. This row only escalated the sense of febrility surrounding the parliament’s crunch Brexit debate.