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May 16, 2019, 5:01 a.m. EDT

Brexit Brief: Make-or-break moment for May’s leadership as U.K. approaches vote on deal

Theresa May’s future as prime minister hangs in the balance as ministers have warned that, if her EU withdrawal bill is defeated again in parliament, the U.K. will face a choice: no-deal and no Brexit.

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By Bérengère Sim


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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May

Theresa May’s future as U.K. prime minister hangs in the balance as ministers have warned that, if her EU withdrawal bill is defeated again in parliament, the U.K. will face a choice: no deal or no Brexit.

Stephen Barclay, the Brexit minister, told the parliamentary EU committee on May 14 that, if the deal doesn’t pass, parliament “will have to then address a much more fundamental question between whether it will pursue…a no-deal option or whether it will revoke [Brexit].”

Parties across the political spectrum have expressed skepticism that the U.K. parliament will pass May’s Brexit deal at the fourth time of asking, following the announcement that this vote will take place in the first week of June.

The government has been conducting talks with the opposition Labour Party to see if it can convince its leadership to back May’s deal. But opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman said there is no agreement and demanded the government make further concessions.

Even if May gives more ground to Corbyn’s demands, which are for a closer relationship with the EU than May’s deal currently entails, she then risks losing the support of pro-Brexit Conservative ministers.

Labour has said the deal must be “Boris-proof,” expressing concern that if a deal were agreed upon, it could be ripped up by May’s successor as Conservative leader. The strongly pro-Brexit former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is reckoned to be the front-runner to replace May.

May is set for a difficult meeting on May 16 with the heads of the Conservative Party’s top parliamentary rule-making body, who have demanded she set out a timetable for her departure regardless of the result of the vote.

Meanwhile, in Poland, the foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz has shown a more forgiving stance than some fellow EU leaders on the U.K.’s parliamentary gridlock. He urged the EU to be willing to grant another extension to allow time for the country to change its mind about Brexit, reports Reuters.

The U.K. is currently scheduled to leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31, following a previous extension to the original March 31 deadline because parliament couldn't agree on the exit deal.

“From Poland’s point of view, it would be good if Brexit wouldn’t happen,” Czaputowicz said. “It is a matter of changing the rhetoric to let the Brits rethink their decision.”

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