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May’s ministers think her Brexit plan is dead, seek other options: Report

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (file photo)

Senior British ministers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet believe her Brexit plan is dead and are contemplating alternatives, including a second referendum, according to a report.

May said on Friday that she hoped to secure further assurances about her plan from European Union leaders despite an unproductive trip to Brussels. The embattled premier is expected to face opposing demands from ministers next week, The Times newspaper reported.

May’s cabinet is divided over the way the UK should approach its departure from the EU after more than 40 years of membership.

Some ministers, including Work and Pensions Minister Amber Rudd and Finance Minister Philip Hammond, are prepared to back a second referendum if all other options are exhausted, the report said. Another group, including Environment Minister Michael Gove and Interior Minister Sajid Javid, was opposed to the idea, it added.

Other ministers such as Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, were willing to risk leaving the EU without a deal, according to The Times.

Many members of parliament, including Conservative MPs, are also opposed to the prime minister’s plan, which she struck with EU leaders last month.

May has warned that rejection of her plan would risk a chaotic exit from the EU or not leaving at all. She is having a hard time selling her plan to skeptical MPs especially as EU leaders have indicated that the agreement is "not open for renegotiation."

The premier traveled to Brussels earlier this week to talk with EU leaders after delaying a Commons vote on the deal, in anticipation of a heavy defeat.

However, European leaders rebuffed May’s pleas, toughening their stance as they stepped up planning for a no-deal Brexit.

“Theresa May has led a courageous fight but unfortunately we are not seeing the results," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on Friday.

“Our UK friends need to say what they want instead of asking us to say what we want,” Juncker said. “We would like within a few weeks our UK friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise. And I would like clarifications.”

If May fails to persuade MPs to back her plan, Britain will be on course to crash out of the EU in just over three months, unleashing political and economic chaos. Parliament may also force the prime minister to abandon her plan or even agree to a second referendum.

Many MPs are concerned that the controversial "backstop" plan in the divorce agreement, which is aimed at preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland, would keep Britain tied to EU rules indefinitely and limit its ability to work out new trade deals.

May survived an attempt by members of her own party in parliament to remove her from power this week.

The opposition Labour Party has said the Brexit deal is now "dead in the water."




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