Theresa May, U.K. prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, gestures while speaking during a question and answer session with employees at Screwfix Direct Ltd. as part of the party’s general-election campaign in Stoke on Trent, U.K. (Photographer: Andy Rain/Pool via Bloomberg)

May Is Cornered by Parliament as She Fights for Her Brexit Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May will re-start her stalled bid to win support for her Brexit deal on Wednesday, just a day after her strategy suffered a serious defeat.

The premier has five working days to overcome political opposition to the exit agreement she’s negotiated with the European Union before the deal is put to a vote in Parliament on Jan. 15.

If the House of Commons defeats her plan, May says Britain will be facing an economically damaging no-deal Brexit in March.

May Is Cornered by Parliament as She Fights for Her Brexit Deal

The prime minister is stepping up preparations for leaving the EU without an agreement, amid warnings that such an outcome could crash the pound by 25 percent and hit house prices by as much as 30 percent, risking a recession.

Her team hopes such a bleak outlook will persuade more than half of the 650 members of Parliament to accept May’s deal as the best way to avoid economic ruin, when the Commons resumes debating the EU Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday.

Thin Hopes

But May’s hopes now seem thinner than ever after Parliament undermined her threat of an explosive no-deal exit.

The House of Commons voted on Tuesday night to take steps to restrict May’s room for maneuver and make leaving the EU without an agreement potentially more difficult.

May lost the vote because 20 of her own Tories chose to take a stand against the prospect of crashing out of the bloc of 28 countries with no deal in place.

May Is Cornered by Parliament as She Fights for Her Brexit Deal

“This vote shows the strength of concern across the House of Commons about the dangers no-deal could pose to manufacturing industry, jobs, food prices, policing and security,” said Yvette Cooper, the Labour Party representative who led the successful move against May’s finance bill. “Whilst there are still a wide range of different views on the best way forward, it shows that enough members of Parliament are ready to come together in a sensible way to oppose a chaotic no-deal.”

No Brexit?

Until now, May’s main worry has been keeping the pro-Brexit euroskeptics in her Tory party on side. Tuesday’s defeat shows that a growing number of politicians on the pro-EU wing of her party have lost patience with May’s threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Oliver Letwin, who has almost never rebelled before, warned that he would “continue to do so right up to the end of March,” trying to make it more difficult for the government to implement no-deal provisions. “We will not allow a no-deal exit,” he told the Commons.

Brexit-supporters in the Conservative ranks have so far felt comfortable about voting against the Withdrawal Agreement that May has negotiated, saying that they’re happy with the idea of leaving the EU without a deal at all.

May Is Cornered by Parliament as She Fights for Her Brexit Deal

It’s possible that Tuesday’s vote will make some hardline Brexit backers wonder if they need to start taking seriously May’s warning that they risk getting no Brexit at all if they vote down her deal next week.

May has set the date for the vote on her deal -- postponed from last year -- for Jan. 15. If she hoped that the Christmas break would lead to feelings of goodwill within Parliament, she’s likely to have been disappointed.

Not only are Brexit-backing Tories still saying they’ll vote against, but the prime minister made little headway at a cross-party meeting of more than 200 members who oppose a no-deal departure on Tuesday evening.

“It’s all too little, too late,” Labour’s Ben Bradshaw told reporters outside the meeting. “If she wanted to build a consensus, she should have started two-and-a-half years ago.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.