May to set out ‘next steps’ for rejected Brexit deal

London – Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to tell lawmakers that will plough on with her Brexit deal by seeking concessions from the EU to win over eurosceptics in her Conservative party.

The next steps

May is scheduled to set out her ideas for the “next steps” on steering Brexit through parliament, before a vote on a business motion planned on January 29.

She suffered a crushing defeat in last week’s vote on her deal, amid strong opposition from pro-EU lawmakers working to prevent a no-deal Brexit and from pro-Brexit rivals who say she should accept the possibility of Britain withdrawing from the EU without an agreement on March 29.

Several expected amendments to May’s business motion could allow cross-party lawmakers, most of whom back a second referendum, to take control of the process.

Some amendments seek to suspend talks under Article 50 of the EU treaty, which allows a member state to leave the bloc after up two years of negotiations.

Open Irish border

May discussed with her cabinet the possibility of asking EU leaders again to amend the “backstop” protocol to guarantee an open Irish border after Brexit, the BBC and other media said.

The broadcaster said May was believed to want to show the EU that lawmakers “could back a deal without a backstop, in the hope of encouraging Brussels to soften its position.”

The Guardian also said May’s cabinet had agreed, in a 90-minute conference call to renew efforts to “find acceptable changes” to the backstop arrangement.

But “no actual solutions” were proposed during the call, the newspaper quoted unidentified cabinet sources as saying.

A spokesperson for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has reiterated however that any new proposals to achieve a breakthrough would have to come from the British side.

“Don’t look for answers to Brussels,” spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told journalists. “This is the moment for London to speak.”

Collision course

Schinas refused to comment on reports about May’s possible “Plan B.”

The Financial Times said May was on a “collision course” with lawmakers after she “refused to compromise” in talks last week with cross-party lawmakers.

It said she will not set out a substantive “plan B” despite lawmakers’ demands for her to “stop running down the clock.”

Ahead of May’s statement to parliament, one of her fiercest pro-Brexit critics urged her to rally the Conservatives behind her deal by pressing the EU to accept changes.

“In my unequivocal view the answer to this crisis still remains largely within the prime minister’s own party,” Jacob Rees-Mogg has written in the Mail which called him a “peacebroker” in the bitterly divided party.

May suffered a crushing defeat in parliament last week, as more than 100 Conservatives voted against her deal, before she narrowly won a no-confidence vote put forward by Labour, the main opposition party.

She needs to find a compromise to satisfy both Rees-Mogg’s eurosceptics and some 20 pro-EU Conservatives who also oppose her deal.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 lawmakers have propped up May’s minority government since June 2017, also voted against her deal, mainly because of its opposition to the backstop.