British Parliament meets today, but few are clear on next Brexit steps

Prime Minister Theresa May battled to keep control of Britain's exit from the European Union on Monday as some in her party called on her to quit and Parliament plotted to wrest the Brexit process away from her government.

At one of the most important junctures for the country in at least a generation, British politics was at fever pitch, and nearly three years after the 2016 EU membership referendum, it was still unclear how, when or even if Brexit will take place.

With May weakened, ministers lined up to insist she was still in charge and to deny any part in, or knowledge of, a reported plot to demand she name a date to leave office.

As speculation swirled around May's future, Parliament prepared to try to take control of the Brexit process from the government in a series of votes due Monday evening.

May's divided cabinet of senior ministers met during the day to discuss a way forward, May's spokesperson said, though contradictory reports of the discussions — which are supposed to remain private — were swiftly published on Twitter.

Anti-Brexit campaigners wave flags, with Scottish saltire flag, right, outside Parliament in London on Monday. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

Amid the chaos, it was unclear when May would bring her divorce deal back to Parliament. The deal May negotiated with the EU was defeated in Parliament by 149 votes on March 12 and by 230 votes on Jan. 15.

"We will only bring the vote back if we believe that we would be in a position to win it," May's spokesperson said, declining to comment on whether it would take place on Tuesday.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn told May there was no basis for bringing her twice-defeated Brexit deal back to Parliament for a third vote, a Labour Party spokesperson said.

Corbyn and May met for more than hour in Parliament and had a "frank and comprehensive exchange of views," the spokesperson said, adding that Corbyn did not accept May's suggestion that the withdrawal agreement exit deal could be separated from the declaration on the U.K.-EU future relationship.

May needs support of DUP, others

May had to delay Britain's original March 29 departure date because of the deadlock in London. Now, the country will leave the EU on May 22 if May's deal is approved by Parliament this week. If not, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave without a treaty.

To get the deal passed, she must win over at least 75 MPs — dozens of rebels in her Conservative Party, some opposition Labour Party MPs and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

May had a call with DUP leader Arlene Foster after the cabinet meeting, but a party spokesperson said he did not see the DUP supporting the deal. To hold a vote on Tuesday, the government must present an emergency business motion by the close of business on Monday.

Days before March 29, British ministers and lawmakers were still publicly discussing an array of options including leaving with May's deal, with no deal, revoking the Article 50 divorce papers, calling another referendum or going for a closer relationship with the EU.

The EU believes a no-deal Brexit is increasingly likely, EU officials said.

"We don't want a no-deal Brexit, we'd much rather have the Withdrawal Agreement, but if it is to be a no deal, let's do it quickly," the EU official said of the bloc's approach.

Some backbenchers frustrated

Some British lawmakers publicly called for May to go.

"The prime minister does not have the confidence of the parliamentary party," said Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative lawmaker who supports Brexit.

"She clearly doesn't have the confidence of the Cabinet and she certainly doesn't have the confidence of our members out there in the country."

Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen says it's time for someone else to take the reins from Prime Minister Theresa May. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

May survived a vote on her leadership in December, and told the party she would not lead them into the next election.

The United Kingdom, which voted 52-48 per cent to leave the EU in the referendum, remains deeply divided over Brexit.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through London on Saturday to demand another referendum and on Sunday May called Brexit-supporting rebel lawmakers to her Chequers residence in an attempt to break the deadlock. It was unclear what was agreed, if anything.

MPs were expected to vote on possible ways forward on Monday. Conservative lawmaker Oliver Letwin's amendment seeks to change the rules of Parliament on March 27 to provide time for lawmakers to debate and vote on different options.

Parliament Speaker John Bercow will announce whether he has selected any amendments to be voted on.

One way to counter Parliament would be for May to try to offer her own version of indicative votes. The prospect of a softer Brexit would also increase pressure on the Brexit-supporting lawmakers in her party to get behind her deal.

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