Fri, 26 Apr 2019

Theresa May gambled on a desperate bid to get her Brexit deal approved by Parliament, as a standoff with the European Union (EU) drove Britain to the brink of an economically disastrous no-deal divorce.

The premier heads to the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday to push a demand her EU counterparts have already said she can't have until she persuades the UK Parliament to support the Brexit deal they struck with her: a one-off, three-month delay to Britain's departure.

The deadlock over how long to delay the UK's exit from the EU plunges the country deeper into a political crisis that now seems likely to push the Brexit endgame into the final hours before next week's deadline.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, was also slated to travel to Brussels on Thursday to make the case for an alternative to May's withdrawal plan.

Under pressure from euroskeptic Conservatives, the prime minister formally proposed delaying Britain's exit from the EU until June 30.

But the bloc warned if she can't persuade members of Parliament to vote for her deal in the next nine days, the choice will be a prolonged extension or leaving without a deal.

In a address to the nation from her 10 Downing Street office on Wednesday, May hinted she could even resign rather than agree to a lengthy postponement that would keep the UK in the bloc beyond the middle of the year.

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EU leaders are likely to be asked to agree the wording of the summit conclusions themselves instead of having a draft prepared by aides in advance. That means it's likely to be a long night, the person said.

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Before her address to the nation, May met with opposition leaders, including those of the Scottish National Party, the Welsh party Plaid Cymru, and the Liberal Democrats.

But main opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn walked out apparently in protest at the presence of Chuka Umunna, who quit Labour last month and now speaks for an 11-strong group of former Labour and Conservative lawmakers. Those who did attend said the premier showed no sign of budging.

"She remains astonishingly intransigent, and continues to try to bully MPs into a choice between her deal or no deal," said Liz Saville Roberts, Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru.

Corbyn later held a 20-minute call with the premier, after which he said "she is in complete denial about the scale of the crisis we are facing and unable to offer the leadership the country needs." He called her approach "unacceptable and reckless."

The government has promised MPs it will put forward a motion in the House of Commons on Monday, which they can use to explore different models of Brexit, and a government official indicated a third vote on the Brexit deal may be held on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

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