Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, speaks during an interview at the World Economic Forum (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Date of Vote on Brexit Deal Will Be in Doubt Until January

(Bloomberg) -- The precise date when British lawmakers will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is unlikely to be set before January, after the government declined to announce it in upcoming Parliamentary business.

May has said that it will take place in the week beginning Jan. 14. The general guide is that big votes aren’t held on a Monday, as members of Parliament from far-flung districts can face travel delays, especially in winter. That led to expectations the vote itself would be on the Tuesday, Jan. 15.

But if May -- who has already delayed the vote once due adverse parliamentary arithmetic -- still expects to lose, she might prefer it not to happen on a Tuesday, as it would be likely to dominate her weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session the following day.

Anyone hoping for clues in Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom’s latest statement will have been disappointed. She told lawmakers Thursday the Parliamentary debate ahead of the vote would begin on Jan. 9 and continue the following day.

After that, things remain in doubt. The House of Commons isn’t due to sit on Friday, Jan. 11, though Leadsom said it might -- or not. She also didn’t say whether there would be five days of debate, as had been planned before the vote was pulled this month.

If the government is aiming for five debating days, and the House of Commons does sit on Jan. 11, it would point to a vote on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Otherwise, Jan. 16 looks likelier.

Of course, May could postpone again -- though it wouldn’t buy her much time. Due to government concessions earlier this year, there must be a debate on Brexit and a vote on other options for leaving the European Union within five working days of Jan. 21.

In a potential twist Thursday, a cross-party group of lawmakers submitted an amendment to the finance bill -- due to be debated Jan. 8 -- to prevent the government from pursuing a no-deal Brexit without the consent of Parliament. On Tuesday, the Cabinet agreed to ramp up preparations for exiting the EU without an agreement.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.