Brexit date is hurtling closer while Labour and Conservative politicians play out a domestic political drama.
Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote on Wednesday, a day after members of parliament dealt a crushing blow to the Brexit plan she negotiated with the European Union.
Parliament members voted 325 to 306 against the motion called by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, who had earlier urged May to resign.
It was expected that May would survive the vote after she secured the backing of her own party’s rebels and the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.
“I am pleased that this House has expressed its confidence in this government tonight,” May said, welcoming the result and vowing to continue to “deliver on the result of the [Brexit] referendum”.
“My government will continue its work to increase our prosperity, guarantee our security and to strengthen our union.”
“We have a responsibility to identify a way forward that can secure the backing of the House,” she said.
With her leadership secure for the time being, May has to decide the next step as the March 29 deadline for the United Kingdom‘s departure from the EU, or Brexit, looms.
The prime minister has ruled out calling a general election, saying that it would be the “worst thing” Britain could do now.
“It would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty and it would bring delay when we need to move forward,” May told parliament.
The other options on the table are a second referendum, a renegotiation with the EU or a departure from the bloc without a deal.
May pledged to work with senior politicians to find a compromise that would avoid a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit or another referendum on membership.
The prime minister held talks with representatives from the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and the Welsh party Plaid Cymru, but said she was “disappointed” that Corbyn chose not to take part in discussions.
She said that her door remains open to Labour, calling on the MPs to “put self-interest aside” and “work constructively together” to find a way forward for Brexit.
Corbyn said he was willing to meet May to discuss the way forward if she agreed to take a no-deal Brexit “off the table”.
During the debate at parliament on Wednesday, Corbyn said that the Brexit vote on Tuesday night had left May’s government ineffective to deliver on her promise.
“This government has failed our country. It cannot govern, it cannot command the support of the people, facing the most important issue at the moment, which is Brexit,” said Corbyn, who opposes a second referendum.
Following the vote on Wednesday, Corbyn called on May to “remove clearly” the prospect of a no-deal Brexit “and all the chaos that would come as a result of that”.
John McDonnell, Labour’s finance spokesperson, said May could eventually get a deal through parliament if she negotiated a compromise with the opposition party, which wants a permanent customs union with the EU, a close relationship with its single market and greater protections for workers and consumers.
But May’s spokesman said it was still government policy to be outside an EU customs union, while May insisted Britain would leave the bloc on March 29, leaving little time for a solution to be found.
For its part, the SNP urged May to rule out a no-deal Brexit and agree that the possibilities of extending the Brexit negotiations and holding a second referendum remain on the table.