News World UK Parliament rejects softer Brexit options as EU departure mired in chaos
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UK Parliament rejects softer Brexit options as EU departure mired in chaos

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House speaker John Bercow has selected four 'softer' options to be voted on. Photo: Getty
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British MPs have rejected all four non-binding Brexit alternatives tabled for the second round of the indicative vote process.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told the House of Commons on Wednesday (Australian time) that the default legal position is that the UK will leave the European Union in 11 days’ time, and that to secure an extension Britain must provide a “credible” plan.

Parliament was earlier being urged to follow Norway’s lead as MPs vote on “softer” options to leave the European Union in a bid to end the UK’s Brexit chaos.

Among the four Brexit options voted on in Parliament was a Labour-backed “Common Market 2.0” proposal, under which the UK would leave Europe while retaining freedom of movement and making contributions to the EU budget.

Other options included remaining; membership of the single market with a customs arrangement; putting any agreed deal to a second referendum; and halting Brexit altogether if necessary to avoid leaving the bloc without a deal.

Mr Barclay said that if the House of Commons is able to agree a deal this week, it would still be possible to avoid European Parliament elections in May.

All 10 MPs from the Northern Irish party propping up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government voted against the four alternative Brexit options voted upon in Parliament, a spokesman for the party said.

Conservative former minister Nick Boles, raising a point of order, said he can “no longer sit for this party” as it was incapable of compromise, and resigned.

Three days after the date on which Britain was originally due to leave the EU, it is still uncertain how, when or even whether the United Kingdom will say goodbye to the bloc it joined 46 years ago.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was “disappointing” that none of the options had won a majority, but said MPs should have a chance to consider them again on Wednesday.

After a tumultuous few weeks in which Ms May’s Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected three times in the House of Commons, despite her offer to quit if it passed, the future direction of Brexit remains mired in confusion and acrimony.

Three days after the date on which Britain was originally due to leave the EU, it is still uncertain how, when or even whether the United Kingdom will say goodbye to the bloc it joined 46 years ago.

The third defeat of Ms May’s withdrawal agreement on Friday left one of the weakest British leaders in a generation facing a spiralling crisis over Brexit, the UK’s most far-reaching policy change since World War Two.

Ms May and her Conservative Party, which has been trying to contain a schism over Europe for 30 years, are in open conflict between those pushing for a customs union with the EU and eurosceptics demanding a cleaner break with the bloc.

Ms May’s chief whip, responsible for party discipline, told the BBC in a documentary aired on Monday that the government should have known that the Prime Minister’s loss of her parliamentary majority in a snap election in 2017 would “inevitably” lead to a softer Brexit.

Beyond Westminster, the UK head of German industrial giant Siemens, Juergen Maier, said Britain was wrecking its reputation, and urged MPs to back a customs union with the EU.

“We are all running out of patience,” Mr Maier said.

“Where the UK used to be beacon for stability, we are now becoming a laughing stock,” he said in an open letter to MPs published by the website Politico.

From EU officials watching from Brussels, there was one plea – make up your minds.

“A sphinx is an open book compared to the UK,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president.

“Nobody knows where it is heading. Would like to make the sphinx talk and tell us in which direction they would like to go.”

Ms May was considering a final throw of the dice by bringing her deal back to a vote in parliament as soon as Wednesday, when it could be put to MPs in a “run-off” against whichever alternative gains the most support.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on March 29 but the political deadlock in London forced May to ask the bloc for a delay. As things stand, Britain will now depart at 11pm local time on April 12 – unless Ms May comes up with another option.

-with AAP

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