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Parliament still in limbo over Brexit

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British Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, Belgium on February 7. Xinhua

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to sway hardline opponents of her European Union divorce deal on Wednesday with an offer to quit, but parliament’s bid to agree an alternative fell short, leaving the Brexit process as deadlocked as ever.

Ms May told her Conservative lawmakers she would step down if her Brexit deal was finally passed by parliament at the third attempt, in a last-ditch bid to win over many of her party’s eurosceptic rebels.

Britain was supposed to leave the bloc today but Brussels agreed last week to put back the divorce date until April 12 to give it a chance to resolve a three-year crisis that has split the country down the middle.

However, it still remains uncertain how, when or even whether the United Kingdom, the world’s fifth-biggest economy, will leave the EU. The possibilities that it will leave with no deal to soften the shock to its economy, or delay the departure date to hold a general election, have increased as other options fade.

While Ms May’s deal continued to stumble, an attempt by parliament to take control of the process by holding a series of indicative votes on other options on Wednesday produced no immediate way through the impasse.

None of the proposals, many of which involved closer alignment with the EU than Ms May envisages, won the support of a majority of lawmakers.

“In a spectacular display of indecision, the House of Commons has voted against remaining in the EU and every version of leaving the EU,” tweeted James Cleverly, the Conservative Party’s deputy chairman.

Nevertheless, some proposals fared better than Ms May’s deal had done two weeks ago, and parliament was due to hold more indicative votes on Monday after refining the options most likely to secure a majority.

Ms May, who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, had already promised to step down before the next election, due in 2022.

Her deal, defeated in parliament by 149 votes on March 12 and by 230 votes on January 15, means Britain would leave the EU single market and customs union as well as EU political bodies.

On Wednesday MPs debated eight other Brexit options, ranging from leaving abruptly with no deal to revoking the divorce altogether.

While there was no majority support for any, the option calling for a referendum on any departure deal, and another suggesting a UK-wide customs union with the EU, won more votes than Ms May’s deal did two weeks ago.

Oliver Letwin, a Conservative former cabinet minister who led parliament’s unusual power grab, said it had been expected that none would immediately win a majority, and lawmakers would have another chance on Monday.

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