May considers fourth bid to pass withdrawal deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May

London,  British Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet are looking for ways to bring her European Union (EU) withdrawal agreement back to the House of Commons for a fourth attempt at winning MPs’ backing.

After MPs on Friday rejected May’s agreement for the third time by 344 votes to 286, the Prime Minister said that the UK would need “an alternative way forward” to carry on with the Brexit process, the BBC reported.

The agreement is the part of Brexit deal May struck with Brussels that sets out how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period and arrangements for the Irish backstop — the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border between the Irish Republic and the UK province of Northern Ireland.

MPs from all parties will now test support for other options during a second round of “indicative votes” on April.

The government has so far failed to win over 34 Conservative rebels, including both Remainers and Brexiteers who say the deal still leaves the UK too closely aligned to Europe.

However, a Downing Street source on Friday night indicated that the Prime Minister would continue to seek support in the Commons, adding that efforts were “going in the right direction”.

May has until April 12 to seek a longer extension to the negotiation process to avoid the UK leaving without a deal, which most MPs believe could harm business and create disruption at ports.

However, she said any further delay to Brexit was “almost certain” to involve staging elections to the European Parliament slated to be held from May 23 to 26.

Following Friday’s votes, opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on May to change her deal or resign immediately, while Northern Ireland’s DUP, which has propped up May’s minority government, also continues to oppose the agreement.

Responding to the development, the European Commission has said that the EU was now “fully prepared” for a no-deal Brexit.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on April 10.”