UK Cabinet to meet as MPs reject Brexit options

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London, April 2 (IANS) UK Prime Minister Theresa May will summon her warring Cabinet to Downing Street for a five-hour showdown on Tuesday after Parliament once again failed to agree on any alternative to her rejected Brexit deal.

Three options — a common market, a customs union and a second referendum — were all narrowly rejected on Monday in the process of indicative votes, prompting renewed talk of a swift general election, the Guardian reported.

Reacting to the development, EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that a no-deal Brexit was now more likely but could still be avoided.

Barnier said he saw three ways forward after MPs failed to agree on the latest Brexit proposals — no deal, a long extension or the Prime Minister’s deal.

“No deal was never our desire or intended scenario but the EU 27 is now prepared. It becomes day after day more likely.”

With just 10 days left until Britain is due to leave the EU (on April 12) without a deal unless the government secures a fresh delay from Brussels, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the Cabinet would have to decide the way forward.

“This house has continuously rejected leaving without a deal, just as it has rejected not leaving at all. Therefore the only option is to find a way through which allows the UK to leave with a deal,” he said.

According to a Downing Street adviser, a snap election fronted by May was being “tested” and that it was viewed by some in the No 10 bunker as “the least worst option”.

The customs union with the EU motion tabled by the former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke was rejected by a margin of just three votes, by 273 to 276, while a second Brexit referendum fell short of a majority by only 12 votes.

The Norway-style “common market 2.0” Brexit deal championed by Tory MP Nick Boles was also rejected, by 261 votes to 282. Just 33 Conservative MPs backed it.

All three alternative Brexit options lost by a significantly narrower margin than May’s deal, however, which was rejected for a third time by 58 votes last Friday.

MPs also declined to back a separate attempt by the Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry to allow Parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Cabinet ministers will have to decide whether to tack towards a closer future relationship with the EU in an attempt to build a majority; head for a no-deal Brexit on April 12 or give May’s deal a final shot this week, probably on Wednesday, reports say.

Several Cabinet ministers, including Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox, say that a no-deal exit would be preferable to a customs union and they claimed the support of over half of the parliamentary party, many of whom signed a letter to May making the point.

May’s official spokesman underlined her continued objections to Britain remaining part of a customs union on Monday. “She has said on a number of occasions that she believes it is important for the UK to have its own trade policy,” he said.

No 10 has not ruled out bringing the Prime Minister’s deal back to the House of Commons for a fourth time if the Speaker will allow it.

–IANS

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