Prime Minister Theresa May set out on Tuesday a “new deal” for Britain’s departure from the European Union, offering sweeteners to opposition parties in her fourth attempt to break an impasse in parliament over Brexit.
Three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and almost two months after the planned departure date, May is mounting a last bid to try to get the deeply divided parliament’s backing for a divorce deal, to leave office with some kind of legacy.
The odds do not look good. Despite offering what she described as “significant further changes”, many lawmakers, hardened in their positions, have already decided not to vote next month for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill legislation, which implements the terms of Britain’s departure.
Speaking at the headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers, May appealed to lawmakers to get behind her deal, offering the prospect of a possible second referendum on the agreement and closer trading arrangements with the EU as incentives.
“I say with conviction to every MP or every party: I have compromised, now I ask you to compromise,” she said.
“We have been given a clear instruction by the people we are supposed to represent, so help me find a way to honor that instruction, move our country and our politics, and build the better future that all of us want to see.”
By offering the possibility of holding a second vote on her deal and a compromise on customs arrangements, May hopes to win over opposition Labor lawmakers, whose votes she needs to overcome resistance to the deal in her own Conservative Party.
But she will infuriate Brexit-supporting lawmakers, who have described a customs union with the EU as no Brexit at all.
Simon Clarke, a Conservative lawmaker, said he had backed her deal during the third failed attempt in parliament, “but this speech from the PM means there is no way I will support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.”
“So if we pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at second reading, we allow a Remain Parliament to insist upon a second referendum and a Customs Union? This is outrageous,” he said on Twitter.