By Susy Hodges
Labour put forward an amendment seeking to force the government to give parliament time to consider and vote on options to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU with no deal. Those options include a customs union with the EU and a public vote on a deal.
It was the first time the Labour leadership had put forward in parliament the possibility of a second vote, which was welcomed by some opponents of Brexit.
May is planning fresh talks with lawmakers aimed at tweaking her defeated EU withdrawal plan but has refused to take a no-deal Brexit off the table. In an address to parliament earlier this week the Prime Minister again rejected calls for another referendum on Brexit or an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal notice.
May says she is focusing on altering the so-called Northern Ireland backstop, an insurance policy that is intended to ensure there will be no return to border checks between the British province and Ireland.
Hardline supporters of Brexit in May’s Conservative party strongly object to the backstop because Britain cannot unilaterally end the provision which would keep it in a customs union with the EU until an alternative way of ensuring an open border is found. Brussels says this provision is non-negotiable.
The Prime Ministers’ Brexit withdrawal deal was defeated last week by a massive 230 vote margin and the Irish backstop provision was a key reason why so many lawmakers from her own party voted against the deal.
May has promised to be more flexible in her talks with lawmakers to try to find a way out of the current deadlock but at the same time she has refused to budge from her red lines.
The British parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with different factions supporting a wide range of options including leaving without a deal, holding a second referendum and seeking a customs union with the EU.
One positive move announced by May ..that was widely welcomed … was the government’s decision to scrap the planned fee for EU nationals living in the UK to apply for settled status after Brexit.
But as the clock ticks down to Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU on March the 29th there is the growing chance of a dramatic no-deal exit with no provisions to soften the economic shock.