LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday propose formally ruling out a no-deal Brexit in a bid to avoid a rebellion by lawmakers who are threatening to grab control of the divorce process, The Sun and Daily Mail newspapers reported.
As the United Kingdom’s labyrinthine Brexit crisis goes down to the wire, May is making a last-ditch effort to get changes to the separation package but lawmakers will try on Wednesday to impose their authority in a series of parliamentary votes.
After the British parliament voted 432-202 against her deal in January, the worst defeat for a government in modern British history, May has tried to use the threat of a potentially disorderly no-deal Brexit to get concessions out of the EU.
But many British lawmakers and some of her own ministers have warned they will try to take steps to avoid thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a potentially tumultuous economic crisis.
May on Tuesday will propose to her cabinet of senior ministers that she formally rules out a no-deal Brexit, opening the door to a delay of weeks or months to the March 29 exit date, The Sun newspaper reported.
The Daily Mail newspaper said May is ready to rule out a no-deal Brexit after as many as 15 ministers said they were ready to resign. A spokesman for her Downing Street office declined to comment on the reports.
Reuters reported on Monday that May’s government was looking at different options, including a possible delay.
Sterling, which has lost about 20 cents against the dollar since the 2016 Brexit referendum, rallied against the dollar and the euro while the FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent.
It was not immediately clear how explicitly May would rule out a no-deal. She is due to chair a cabinet meeting and then update parliament at around 1230 GMT.
If May does rule out a no-deal, it would be a clear attempt to undermine lawmakers’ attempts to grab control of Brexit on Wednesday.
Her de-facto deputy, David Lidington, told BBC radio he would not disclose what cabinet would be discussing. When repeatedly asked if May was going to delay, Lidington did not address the questions directly.
In the 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, backed staying.
With just a month to go until Brexit, the ultimate outcome is still unclear with scenarios ranging from a last-minute deal to another referendum that May has warned would reopen the divisions of the referendum or even scupper Brexit altogether.
Both of Britain’s main parties are under intense pressure to change course on Brexit, though both are officially committed to implementing the result of the referendum.
The opposition Labour Party said on Monday it would back calls for a second referendum on Brexit if parliament rejects its alternative plan for leaving the EU.
But the tilt towards another referendum raises problems for Labour, many of whose traditional voters supported leaving the EU.
“Voters in very, very large numbers will not accept that. I call on (Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn to reverse this absurd decision,” Brexit-supporting Labour lawmaker John Mann said.
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He said Corbyn was reneging on promises made before the 2017 election and it would be “catastrophic” for the party.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer added an additional twist to the political chaos in London by saying that even if May’s deal was passed by March 12 it should face a public vote.
May wants to negotiate changes to the exit deal she agreed with the EU last year and has promised to bring it back for approval in parliament by March 12 at the latest.
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