LONDON: MPs on Monday once again failed to find a majority on any alternative Brexit plan before them, leaving Britain’s chaotic path towards leaving the EU mired in uncertainty less than two weeks before its departure date.
Brussels has set Britain an April 12 deadline to agree to the divorce terms Prime Minister Theresa May has struck with the bloc, find an alternative or crash out of the European Union.
MPs have already rejected the Brexit divorce deal three times, shredding May’s authority.
Parliament’s lower House of Commons seized the initiative last week by holding a first round of votes on eight alternative Brexit options but failed to find a majority on any of them.
Refining them down to four, backbenchers voted again on Monday, hoping to find one solution that most of them could agree on.
All four failed to find a majority although the result was close for proposals to hold a second referendum and negotiate a permanent customs union with the EU.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay hinted the government could now bring its deal back for a fourth vote this week and avoid a longer delay to Brexit that would mean holding European Parliament elections in May.
He warned that otherwise “the default legal position is the UK will leave the EU in just 11 days time” without a deal — an option that experts have warned could cause huge economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.
“Cabinet will meet in the morning to consider the results of tonight’s vote and how we should proceed,” Barclay said.
The EU has called an emergency summit for April 10 and warned that without a plan, Britain risks abruptly ending ties with its largest trading partner two days later, causing huge economic disruption.
“With our British friends we have had a lot of patience, but even patience is running out,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told Italian television channel Rai 1.