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Britain to hold third vote in Brexit crisis


AFP London
Prime Minister Theresa May will put her twice-rejected Brexit divorce deal to a third parliamentary vote on Friday in a renewed bid to avoid a chaotic split from the European Union in two weeks.
May's throw of the dice comes a day after her dramatic pledge to resign in order to persuade her rivals to finally back her vision for breaking Britain's 46-year membership of the bloc.
The prime minister's back is against the wall as she tries to keeping Britain's economy from imploding and the pound from plunging when a post-Brexit border splits the two tight trading partners.
Andrea Leadsom, the government's representative in parliament, said Thursday that the new vote gave recalcitrant lawmakers the chance to secure Britain's delayed departure from the EU on May 22.
"I encourage all MPs to support it and ensure that we leave the EU... giving people and businesses the certainty they need," she told MPs.
The government is hoping that holding the vote on the day when Britain was meant to leave the bloc could win over some still sceptical MPs.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow gave his approval to hold the vote after he had rejected a similar attempt last week, ruling then that May's text was essentially the same one that lawmakers had voted down.
"(It) is new, substantially different and in conformity," he said of the deal to be put to MPs on Friday's vote, which will only cover the main withdrawal agreement in May's plan and not an accompanying political declaration for future EU relations.
Another parliamentary vote would be required before Brexit can actually go ahead. Any failure by lawmakers to pass the pact that was signed off last year by May and the 27 EU leaders could result in a feared "no-deal Brexit" scenario on April 12.
Britain might then try to avoid crashing out by seeking a much longer extension that would force it to take part in European Parliament elections in May.
The prime minister's handling of Brexit has provoked anger, frustration and ridicule at home and abroad.
She played what may have been her last political card on Wednesday by promising to quit once the first stage of the messy divorce process is complete.
"I know there is a desire for a new approach -- and new leadership -- in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations and I won't stand in the way of that," May told a packed meeting of party members.
Her promise won over some likely contenders for her job.
Former foreign minister Boris Johnson said he would now back the premier "on behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit" in the deeply divisive 2016 referendum.
But the opposition Labour party said May's pledge only created more uncertainties by leaving open the question of who would lead the trade talks that will define EU-UK relations for decades to come.
"It's even more of a blindfold Brexit," Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said. "We now know that the outcome of our future relationship with the EU is not going to be determined by her."

May's position was undermined further when her allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said they would continue to oppose the deal.
The tiny group props up May's minority government and is playing a decisive role in the political saga that has consumed Britain and left its EU partners increasingly perplexed.
The DUP fears provisions in May's deal aimed at keeping a free-flowing border between Britain's Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
The group worries that this would give Northern Ireland a different economic status from Britain and separate it from rest of the country.
Parliament's own attempt on Wednesday to find a new last-minute Brexit fix ended in failure.
None of the eight options drawn up by various MPs secured a majority and another vote has been set for Monday on the more popular option.
The one that came closest to winning provided for a much closer economic union with the EU after Brexit than what the Conservative party platform allows.
A proposal to hold a second referendum -- a popular idea with EU supporters -- came second while those promoting a cleaner break finished near the bottom.

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First Published: Mar 28 2019 | 11:47 PM IST

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