British Prime Minister Theresa May will try to break the deadlock over her Brexit plans on Monday by setting out proposals in parliament that are expected to focus on winning more concessions from the European Union.
With just over two months until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29 there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc.
After her Brexit divorce deal was rejected by lawmakers last week, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through parliament, so far in vain.
The EU, which has an economy more than six times the size of the United Kingdom, says it wants an orderly exit but senior officials have expressed frustration and sorrow at London’s deepening crisis over Brexit.
“I have often said Shakespeare could not have written any better the tragedy we are now witnessing in Britain,” German Europe Minister Michael Roth told broadcaster ARD.
“I am not so sure now, because Shakespeare would have pushed up against the limits of his imagination.”
Attempts to forge a consensus with the opposition Labour Party have failed, so May will focus on securing concessions from the EU in order to win over 118 rebels in her own party and the small Northern Irish party which props up her government.
The EU is ready to work on the political declaration on future EU-UK ties but the Brexit withdrawal deal already agreed is the best one possible, the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said.
May will make a statement in parliament at 1530 GMT and put forward a motion on her proposed next steps on Brexit, though some lawmakers are planning to wrest control of Britain’s exit from the government.
May will focus on changing the Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to ensure no return to a hard border between the British province and Ireland.
“It is clear already that a significant number of colleagues have expressed concerns around the backstop and that is one of the areas that we are going to be looking at,” May’s spokesman told reporters.
Poland’s foreign minister said he was proposing limiting the Irish backstop to five years in order to unblock the Brexit deadlock but the suggestion was knocked back by Ireland.
In a sign of just how grave the political crisis in London has become, the Daily Telegraph reported that May was considering amending the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
The report suggested Britain would seek to amend the accord to add that Britain would ensure there was no hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. May’s spokesman said later that Britain was committed to the Good Friday deal.
Ireland will not engage in bilateral talks on Brexit and will only negotiate as part of the 27 remaining members of the EU, Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said.
After the motion on May’s proposals is published, lawmakers will be able to suggest amendments with alternatives to her deal.
The 650-seat parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with different factions of lawmakers supporting a wide range of options including leaving without a deal, holding a second referendum and seeking a customs union with the EU.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of anti-EU lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party, said Britain is likely to leave the European Union without a deal, with a revised Brexit deal as the next likely outcome.
He said if the backstop were removed then most of the opposition to the deal from eurosceptics in her party would be removed.
Sterling, which has flip-flopped over the past two-and-a-half years on different signals about the course of Brexit, was steady at $1.2862. On the day of the referendum in 2016, it was trading at $1.50.