May run­ning out of time to save her Brexit deal

Re­jec­tion would put U.K.on course to leave Euro­pean Union with­out any trade pact in place


Lon­don — Theresa May en­ters one of her most tu­mul­tuous weeks as prime min­is­ter as the U.K. Par­lia­ment pre­pares to de­cide the fate of her Brexit deal, and pos­si­bly her ten­ure as prime min­is­ter.

With her agree­ment fac­ing al­most cer­tain de­feat in a House of Com­mons vote Tues­day, May will make an eleventh-hour ap­peal with a warn­ing that there’s now more of a chance that mem­bers of Par­lia­ment will block Brexit than of the U.K. leav­ing the Euro­pean Union with­out a deal.

“What if we found our­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where Par­lia­ment tried to take the U.K. out of the EU in op­po­si­tion to a re­main vote? Peo­ple’s faith in the demo­cratic process and their politi­cians would suf­fer cat­a­strophic harm,” May will say in a speech in Stoke-on-Trent to­day, ac­cord­ing to ex­tracts re­leased by her of­fice. “We all have a duty to im­ple­ment the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum.”

Her choice of Stoke is sig­nif­i­cant. The city in cen­tral Eng­land, 135 miles north of Par­lia­ment in Lon­don and once the heart of the global pot­tery in­dus­try, voted more em­phat­i­cally to leave the EU than any­where else in the U.K. in the 2016 ref­er­en­dum.

May’s warn­ing comes after the Sun­day Times re­ported that some law­mak­ers are plan­ning to seize con­trol of the leg­isla­tive agenda from the gov­ern­ment in an act that would al­low Par­lia­ment to ex­tend the March 29 Brexit dead­line or even over­turn the de­ci­sion to leave the EU.

May has a day to save a deal with the EU that’s taken al­most two years to ne­go­ti­ate, but the task looks vir­tu­ally hope­less. She ap­pears no closer to get­ting the back­ing she needs than she was in De­cem­ber, when the deal was pulled be­fore it could be re­jected. The ques­tion now is what she should do next.

A de­feat would leave the U.K. on course to leave the EU with no new trade ar­range­ments in place. Ac­cord­ing to Bank of Eng­land anal­y­sis, such a chaotic split could ham­mer the pound and home prices, and plunge the coun­try into a re­ces­sion worse than the fi­nan­cial cri­sis a decade ago.

Brexit back­ers ar­gue that May should go back to the EU and rene­go­ti­ate the most con­tentious parts of the deal be­fore putting a re­vised agree­ment to a vote, though Brus­sels has in­di­cated that there’s lit­tle room for com­pro­mise. Se­nior min­is­ters are also said to be urg­ing May to seek a joint plan with the op­po­si­tion Labour Party, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a sig­nif­i­cantly softer Brexit.

Labour, mean­while, wants to top­ple the gov­ern­ment by forc­ing a gen­eral elec­tion, and leader Jeremy Cor­byn in­di­cated Sun­day that his party could bring a no-con­fi­dence bal­lot within days if May loses the vote on her Brexit deal. His chance of vic­tory is slim, how­ever, and fail­ure would put him un­der pres­sure to back the grow­ing cross-party calls for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

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