May Cancels Brexit Cabinet, Avoids Parliament as Fight Rages on

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May canceled a meeting of her inner Brexit cabinet scheduled for Thursday as she struggles to break a deadlock within her government about what Britain’s future outside the European Union should look like.

A government official declined to give a reason for canceling the meeting and said reports that ministers would meet next Tuesday couldn’t be confirmed.

Last time they met, pro-Brexit ministers criticized the prime minister’s plans in an unusual show of defiance but May has insisted her proposal is still on the table and just needs some work.

More time is needed for those tweaks, and that’s why the meeting was put off, according to two people familiar with the situation.

In another sign of stasis within the administration, May is also putting off sending her key piece of legislation to the House of Commons.

May is facing increasingly brazen criticism on her EU policy -- Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called it "crazy" and she’s working to convince pro-Brexit ministers that her plans aren’t a betrayal of the clean divorce they fought for. At the same time, pro-EU lawmakers in her Conservative Party are pushing her to keep closer ties to the bloc and probably have the numbers to force her to do so.

But rebel lawmakers can only go on the attack if the government gives them bills to vote on, and the government is staving off their advance by withholding legislation.

Announcing the provisional schedule for debates for the next two weeks on Thursday, the government made no mention of the return of May’s landmark Brexit legislation from the House of Lords. The upper house inflicted 14 defeats on the government and May can expect opposition to many parts of the so-called EU Withdrawal Bill from lawmakers of all parties when it is again debated by the lower chamber.

The Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill and the Trade Bill, which also have implications for Brexit, have meanwhile been waiting for debate since the start of February. Three further bills, relating to immigration, agriculture and fisheries have yet to even begin their parliamentary journeys.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.