May Refuses To Delay Vote On Brexit Deal Despite Near-Certain Defeat

Despite losing an unprecedented Commons vote to hold her government in contempt earlier this week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is standing by her position that her deal cannot be altered in any meaningful way - and that's a huge problem for everyone hoping to avert a 'no deal' Brexit.


After meeting with her cabinet on Thursday, May reportedly acknowledged that the deal might need to be amended to allow Parliament some kind of veto over whether to enter into the backstop - which would keep the UK inside the EU customs union after December 2020, when the Brexit transition period is expected to end. However, she is reportedly still insisting that the only options on the table are "no deal", "her deal" or "no Brexit".

However, BBC Political editor Laur Kuenssberg said the possibility that Parliament takes control of the process to try and find "another way through" is looking increasingly likely.

Since the bill, in its current form, appears to be headed for almost certain defeat. In recognition of this unavoidable fact, conservative leaders on Thursday reportedly said they would "welcome" a delay of the planned Dec. 11 vote to stave off a massive defeat that could bring down May's government. But even though the odds remain heavily stacked against her (100 Tory MPs have said they would vote against her deal, and that was before the release of AG Geoffrey Cox's legal advice, which confirmed many Brexiteers' worst fears about May's deal), No. 10 Downing Street asserted on Thursday that the vote would proceed as planned, according to Reuters.

"The vote will take place on Tuesday as planned," May’s spokeswoman said. The House of Commons leader, Andrea Leadsom, also told parliament the vote would go ahead on Dec. 11.

The day before the vote, on Dec. 10, the EU’s top court will deliver a judgment on whether Britain can unilaterally halt Brexit.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday the deal was the best Britain will get, while British finance minister Philip Hammond said it was “simply a delusion” to think the agreement could be renegotiated if parliament rejects it.

May used an interview on BBC radio to press on with her bid to persuade lawmakers to back her deal.

"There are three options: one is to leave the European Union with a deal...the other two are that we leave without a deal or that we have no Brexit at all," she said.

In one potential concession, May said she recognized that there were concerns among lawmakers about the so-called Northern Irish backstop and she was looking at whether parliament could be given a greater role in deciding whether to trigger it.

“I am talking to colleagues about how we can look at parliament having a role in going into that and, if you like, coming out of that,” she said.

At this point in the Brexit deal debate, May's insistence on holding a vote on the deal as-is despite its almost-certain defeat verges on the irrational. Why hold a vote on a deal that's doomed to fail?

We can think of only one reason: To help justify holding a second Brexit referendum - or the cancellation of Brexit altogether. Wall Street firms, it seems, would tend to agree. After all, JPM on Wednesday raised the odds of a reversal of Brexit to 40%.