Ministers Push Theresa May to Test Different Brexits Before Christmas
Pro-European ministers in Theresa May’s Cabinet are plotting to secure a Brexit they can live with.
Six ministers have urged May to force Parliament to vote informally on a range of Brexit outcomes, according to people familiar with the situation. The plan is to show that there’s no majority for any kind of divorce in a bid to get lawmakers to accept a compromise.
Once it’s clear that no one’s first option commands enough support, the idea is that May’s deal -- which is widely loathed -- might then look like a reasonable compromise with a decent chance of success, according to two Cabinet ministers.
But it could also flush out support for keeping closer ties to the bloc than the premier is proposing. There’s even a chance that the exercise could point the way to a second referendum, which May has repeatedly rejected. May -- who survived a leadership challenge on Wednesday -- doesn’t like the plan as it could have unforeseen consequences, according to one of the people.
The pressure from her inner circle comes as May staggers on to Brussels on Thursday to plead for a lifeline after her Brexit plans provoked a revolt from her Conservative Party. On Wednesday night she survived a confidence vote on her leadership though more than a third of Tory lawmakers voted to ditch her.
That outcome will force her to war-game all sorts of options.
Ministers including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Education Secretary Damian Hinds are urging May to hold a series of “indicative votes”, according to eight people familiar with the situation. There’s pressure to hold the votes as soon as next week, according to three of the people.
May abandoned a vote in parliament this week on her deal as she expected to lose it by a wide margin. She’s now seeking some tweaks to the agreement in the hope that will make it more acceptable to lawmakers. Still, the European Union has made it clear that only clarifications, rather than real changes, are on offer.
No date has been set for another vote in Parliament, and May has indicated she thinks she has until Jan. 21 to have another go.
With just over 100 days until Britain is due to leave the European Union, Parliament is split over what Brexit should mean. May’s proposal doesn’t have a majority, but neither does the looser arrangement favored by Brexiteers. It’s not clear if a Norway-style deal preferred by Europhiles would command a majority.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.