Watch as Britain’s Theresa May Heads for Defeat in Brexit Vote


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British Prime Minister Theresa May was heading for defeat on Tuesday on her plans to leave the European Union as skeptical members of her own party appeared ready to defy her warning that Britain might not leave the EU at all if they voted against her.

Hours before a 1900 GMT vote on the deal in parliament, May had failed to win over the main Brexit faction in her own party, while Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government, said it would vote “no.”

Nonetheless, a hoarse prime minister defended her plan as a good deal compared to a series of unattractive alternatives.

“If this vote is not passed tonight, if this deal is not passed, then Brexit could be lost,” she told lawmakers.

In a last-ditch bid to save her withdrawal agreement, days before the United Kingdom is due to leave on March 29, May rushed to Strasbourg on Monday to agree legally binding assurances with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

But Britain’s attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, dealt her a blow, saying the assurances she had been given still meant the United Kingdom could be locked in the bloc’s orbit after Brexit – the most controversial issue for pro-Brexit lawmakers.

“The legal risk remains unchanged,” Cox said. “However, the matter of law affecting withdrawal can only inform what is essentially a political decision that each of us must make.”

Sterling fell as much as 2 U.S. cents on Cox’s advice on the basis that it reduced the chance that May’s deal would win over parliament, which on Jan. 15 rejected it by a historic 432 votes to 202.

“THE END OF THE ROAD”

Opposition to May’s deal among members of the Conservative Party derives from a belief that it does not offer the clean break from the European Union that many voted for.

The main pro-Brexit faction in May’s party, the European Research Group, said it did not recommend voting for her deal.

Former foreign minister Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign, said May’s deal was dead and Britain should now leave the EU without an agreement to cushion the effects.

“This deal has now reached the end of the road. If it is rejected tonight, I hope that it will be put to bed,” he told parliament.

The main sticking point is the so-called Irish border backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding controls on the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland after Brexit.

Brexit-supporting lawmakers expressed suspicion at the haste of May’s last-minute assurances and suggested a delay to allow sufficient analysis of them and Cox’s advice.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s parliamentary leader, said the assurances would still trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit.

For its part, the EU fears that if there is no backstop, an open border between the United Kingdom and Ireland will amount to an open door into the EU’s single market.

If lawmakers vote down May’s deal again, they will be given a vote on Wednesday on leaving without a deal, for which there is little support in parliament. If they turn down that option they will vote on Thursday on delaying Brexit. May said there was no guarantee the EU would agree to a delay.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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