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UK’s weakened PM May still hoping to push her Brexit deal through

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May will address her Conservative lawmakers on Wednesday, possibly to set out a timetable for her departure in a last throw of the dice to win support for her twice-rejected Brexit deal in parliament.

At her weakest after parliament on Monday seized control of Brexit, May has yet to give up hope of winning approval for her deal to leave the European Union, which she says is the only way of ensuring an orderly exit that will protect the economy.

Parliaments move seemed to have focused minds, with some eurosceptic lawmakers saying they could back her plan before choosing a new leader for the next phase of talks with the EU. But as yet her Northern Irish powerbrokers remained opposed.

One Conservative lawmaker said Mays decision to address the partys so-called 1922 Committee at 1700 GMT on Wednesday suggested she could set her date of departure to win over that support.

But others cast doubt on whether May, who has so far weathered at least two attempts to oust her, would commit to step down without a firm guarantee of support for her deal.

Nearly three years after the 2016 EU membership referendum, and three days before Britain was originally supposed to leave the bloc, it remains unclear how, when or even if Brexit will take place, with parliament and the nation deeply split.

May could try to bring her deal back to parliament on Thursday for a third vote on Britains biggest trade and foreign policy shift for more than 40 years, but her spokesman said the government would only do that if it had a chance of winning.

Her cabinet team of ministers met on Tuesday, digesting Mondays votes but also trying to plot a way of winning over the 75 lawmakers it must convince to get the so-called Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU through parliament.

“They had a long discussion both in relation to the votes which took place last night and on the work which is ongoing to build support for the governments deal to allow us to leave the EU in an orderly way as soon as possible,” the spokesman said.

“If we are able to hold and win a vote this week we would then be able to leave the EU in less than two months time with a deal, which the prime minister firmly believes is what the public wants,” he said.

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The spokesman said May would “engage constructively” with lawmakers who seized control of Brexit in parliament on Monday but gave them a warning – there is no point supporting different options that the EU will not negotiate.

Lawmakers will debate the alternative Brexit options on Wednesday afternoon before holding so-called indicative votes from 1900 GMT. They will be able to support as many options as they like, with the result expected after 2100 GMT.

The votes could indicate there is no majority in parliament for any alternative course of action, or else a majority for several. Lawmakers plan to take control of parliamentary business again on April 1 to further narrow down the options.

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Parliament in London, Britain March 25, 2019, ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

By Tuesday evening several proposals had emerged for Wednesdays voting.

One motion would compel the government to negotiate a new UK-EU customs union after Brexit. Another proposes a so-called common market 2.0 motion, which envisages the UK staying in the EUs single market along with a special customs arrangement. A third motion, Sky News reported, involves a Norway-style relationship – the single market minus any customs arrangement.

Under a separate cross-party proposal, parliament would choose between leaving the EU without a deal or stopping Brexit altogether if they were the only two options left, Jo Maugham, a lawyer and campaigner, said.

The threat of a softer Brexit or long-delayed departure was focusing minds among hardline Brexiter critics of Mays deal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of a Conservative faction demanding a clean break from the EU, said: “I have always thought that no-deal is better than Mrs Mays deal. But Mrs Mays deal is better than not leaving at all.”

Another prominent Brexiter, former foreign minister Boris JohnsoRead More

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