For Theresa May, Still at Odds With Parliament, the Brexit Walls Are Closing In

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May often puts off critical decisions over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, or Brexit, hoping to wear down opponents through doggedness and determination. But her room to maneuver is rapidly shrinking.

Twice this week, she has suffered losses in Parliament on amendments, even as she scrambles to limit the scale of a parliamentary defeat of her little-loved Brexit plan that everyone expects next week.

One amendment passed by Mrs. May’s critics limits her ability to stall if she loses the vote next week, and requires her to come up with a Plan B within three working parliamentary days of that expected defeat, which would be Monday.

The problem is that Mrs. May does not appear to have a Plan B, except to continue to talk to the European Union and hope that she can cajole more lawmakers to support Plan A.

Mr. Corbyn said he agreed with his Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, who has said that an extension of the negotiating time for Brexit laid down under Article 50 of the European Union’s treaty “may well be inevitable.”

Mr. Corbyn, a lifelong critic of the European Union, kept open the option of a second Brexit referendum if he fails to defeat the government on a confidence motion soon. But despite support for another plebiscite among his party members, Mr. Corbyn has yet to embrace the idea, either for his own Euroskeptic beliefs or perhaps for fear of antagonizing Leave voters in Labour’s ranks.

So could there still be one last escape route for Mrs. May?

After next week’s vote, she might have another chance to seek changes to her Brexit plan from the European Union, or, failing that, perhaps make a far more radical change by adopting Labour’s policy of keeping a permanent customs union with the bloc.

Though European leaders have expressed reluctance to extend Article 50 because of deadlock in London, Mr. Rahman believes that they might opt for a delay of perhaps three months if the alternative is a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

The forces against a no-deal Brexit picked up some backing from Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Thursday. “We truly hope that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided,” he said, speaking at the prime minister’s offices at 10 Downing Street. “In fact, that is the wish of the whole world.”


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