LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May was scrambling Thursday to avoid another defeat on her Brexit strategy amid opposition from members of her own party who claim she is moving in the wrong direction in efforts to overcome the impasse blocking a deal.
Hard-line pro-Brexit lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party say a motion to be voted on in Parliament later effectively rules out the threat of Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement on future relations, a move they say undermines Britain’s bargaining position.
They are threatening to vote against the government, or abstain, in a vote intended to buy the government more time to seek changes from the EU to a Brexit divorce agreement that was overwhelmingly rejected by lawmakers last month.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a prominent Brexit supporter in Cabinet, warned that a government defeat, though not legally binding, would send the wrong signal to the EU.
“They will be looking to see whether Parliament is showing consistency,” he said.
“I think that there’s a danger that we send the wrong signals and I think that we need to understand that the public want us to leave the European Union but they would prefer us to leave the European Union with a deal.”
May has refused to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit as she attempts to win concessions from the bloc. Most businesses and economists the British economy would be severely damaged if the country crashed out of the EU on the scheduled Brexit date of March 29 without a deal, bringing tariffs and other impediments to trade.
The remaining 27 EU nations insist that the legally binding withdrawal agreement struck with May’s government in November can’t be renegotiated.
Leaders of the bloc have expressed exasperation at Britain’s desire for last-minute changes, and failure to offer firm proposals.
European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs summits of EU leaders, said in a tweet: “No news is not always good news. EU27 still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London on how to break #Brexit impasse.”