Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, arrives for a summit of world leaders at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. (Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg) 

Parliament to Challenge May for Brexit Power in Crucial Votes

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May risks losing control of Brexit in a series of votes in Parliament this week that could see her forced to suspend the entire divorce or sent back to Brussels to negotiate the impossible.

There are two key battles that the House of Commons is preparing to settle on Tuesday, when it debates the next steps in the U.K.’s split from the European Union:

  • May is fighting one radical plan from pro-EU members of Parliament to delay the exit date to stop the U.K. from falling out of the bloc with no deal. If it passes, it would be the beginning of a long parliamentary battle to put Brexit on hold.
  • Euro-skeptics in May’s Conservative Party are demanding she go back to the negotiating table to seek an unlikely rewrite of the most contentious part of the deal, focused on the Irish border. There is a chance she could agree, but the problem is the EU has repeatedly warned it won’t abandon the Irish border backstop plan.

The U.K. is set to leave the European Union on March 29. After lawmakers overwhelming rejected the agreement May negotiated in a vote earlier this month, the concern is that exiting without a deal will cause major disruptions, economic hardship and a return to violence in Northern Ireland.

Yvette Cooper, the opposition Labour lawmaker behind one of the amendments that would force May to extend the exit process if Parliament can’t approve a deal, told the BBC on Sunday that she’s not trying to block Brexit. She said the responsible thing to do is to end the “game of chicken” surrounding the possibility of no deal.

Parliament to Challenge May for Brexit Power in Crucial Votes

The prime minister has privately told the Cabinet that she won’t allow the country to leave without a deal, the Sun reported, citing unidentified people familiar with discussions.

Nevertheless, Damian Hinds and Matt Hancock, two of May’s lieutenants, lined up on Sunday to argue that no deal isn’t likely because no one wants that to happen -- while at the same time saying it’s important the option remains possible so that an agreement can be reached.

The chances of passage for any amendment will depend on how May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn order their lawmakers to vote. Neither have made it clear in public which ones they will support.

Ireland reiterated on Sunday that it will insist on the guarantee of an open border to ensure there’s no return to violence between the north and the republic. Neither the EU nor Ireland would accept an escape clause from the so-called backstop or set a time limit, Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said.

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