London/Brussels – Voting on the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed for Britain to leave the European Union on March 29 will go ahead as planned this week, Downing Street said on Monday.
The prime minister’s official residence said May remains committed to holding a vote on Tuesday and, if she loses, still plans to hold two more votes on Wednesday and Thursday on whether Britain should leave the EU without a deal and whether it should extend the Brexit negotiations.
May is expected to make a statement to parliament later Monday and publish her motion for Tuesday’s vote, amid speculation that she could make last-minute changes to the motion.
British parliament to take important decisions
In Brussels, meanwhile, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the onus is now on the British parliament to take “important” decisions on Brexit, noting that for now all political meetings with London have run their course.
“No further meetings at [the] political level are scheduled,” Schinas said, adding that both sides will remain in close contact throughout the week.
“It is now for the House of Commons to take an important set of decisions this week,” he said, referring to Britain’s main house of parliament.
May and commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke again by phone on Monday, Schinas said later in the day, noting that work continues.
The commission is committed to ratifying Britain’s divorce deal before the planned departure date of March 29, Schinas said, adding that the commission is “open and willing” to meet British negotiators at any time.
Delaying the vote
Reports earlier Monday said May was considering delaying or watering down Tuesday’s scheduled “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal.
The Times said unidentified senior members of May’s Conservative Party had pressed her to delay the vote unless she won last-minute concessions from Brussels.
Conservative lawmakers had warned May that she could face another crushing defeat if she went ahead with the vote, the newspaper reported.
This is how the British parliament voted on the Brexit deal with the EU
“They have advised her to halt the vote and replace it with a motion setting out the kind of Brexit deal that would be acceptable to Tory [members of parliament] to keep the party together and put pressure on Brussels,” it said.
The Financial Times also said May had come under growing pressure to delay the vote or amend her motion.
One option would be to give lawmakers a “conditional vote” on the deal including the changes that May’s government is seeking, rather than the one currently agreed by the EU, the FT said.
May has asked Brussels for concessions on the withdrawal agreement, a legal document that regulates Britain’s departure from the EU, after lawmakers roundly rejected the deal in mid-January.
The main sticking point is the so-called backstop, an insurance policy aimed at keeping open the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, in the case that no trade deal is struck in time to resolve the issue.
Britain is seeking measures that would address concerns that it could remain locked into a close relationship with the EU, stymieing efforts to enter into separate trade deals, without the possibility of unilaterally exiting the backstop.