Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that the postponed vote in Parliament on Britain’s Brexit agreement with the European Union will be held the week of Jan. 14 - more than a month after it was originally scheduled and just 10 weeks before Britain leaves the EU.
But even as May insisted she could salvage her unpopular divorce deal, pressure was mounting for dramatic action - a new referendum or a vote among lawmakers - to find a way out of Britain’s Brexit impasse and prevent the economic damage of a messy exit from the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he would submit a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister over her delays. Losing the vote on such a motion would increase the pressure on May, but unlike a no-confidence vote in the government as a whole it wouldn’t trigger a process leading to the fall of the government and an early election.
No date was immediately set for the confidence vote.
The British government and the EU sealed a divorce deal last month, but May postponed a parliamentary vote intended to ratify the agreement last week when it became clear legislators would overwhelmingly reject it.
She tried to win changes from the EU to sweeten the deal for reluctant lawmakers, but was rebuffed by the bloc at a summit in Brussels last week. May’s authority also has been shaken after a no-confidence vote from her own party on Wednesday that saw more than a third of Conservative lawmakers vote against her.
May told lawmakers in the House of Commons on Monday that they would resume debate on the deal when Parliament comes back after its Christmas break the week of Jan. 7, with the vote held the following week.
“I know this is not everyone’s perfect deal,” May said. “It is a compromise. But if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good then we risk leaving the EU with no deal.”
Opposition legislators - and many from May’s Conservative Party - remain opposed to the deal, and accused May of deliberately wasting time by delaying the vote for several more weeks.
“The prime minister has cynically run down the clock trying to maneuver Parliament into a choice between two unacceptable outcomes: her deal and no deal,” Corbyn said.
A growing number of politicians from across the political spectrum believe a new referendum may be the only way to break the political logjam over Brexit.
But May told lawmakers that staging another referendum would ride roughshod over voters’ 2016 decision to leave the EU and “would say to millions who trusted in democracy that our democracy does not deliver.”