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  • Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Jan. 8, 2019.

    Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Jan. 8, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 January 2019

British PM has cautioned lawmakers they will not be able to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU if parliament voted hers down.

British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win over the Northern Irish party for her Brexit deal Wednesday, just hours before lawmakers were due to resume debate on the divorce accord.

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The future of Brexit remains deeply uncertain, with options ranging from a disorderly exit from the European Union to another membership referendum. On Jan. 15 British lawmakers are expected to vote down the deal May struck with the EU in November.

May pulled a vote on the deal last month, admitting it would be defeated, and promised to seek "legal and political assurances" from the EU.

But the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it would not support the deal, arguing they want the deal to drop the backstop arrangement to prevent the return to a hard border with EU member Ireland.

"The only thing which could swing the DUP round is if the backstop as it applies to the United Kingdom as a whole or to Northern Ireland specifically were removed from this agreement," said Sammy Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman.

Wilson, who is among 10 DUP lawmakers propping up May's minority government, cast as "window dressing" her proposals to give the Northern Irish assembly the power to vote against new EU rules if the border backstop comes into force after Brexit.

Her deal, he said, was "ruinous". Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 at 23:00 local time.

May has repeatedly ruled out delaying Brexit, though she has also warned British lawmakers that if they reject her deal then Brexit could be derailed or the United Kingdom could leave without a deal.

The government needs 318 votes to get a deal through parliament.

Business Minister Greg Clark said Wednesday that it's going to be "clearly challenging" to pass May’s Brexit deal at the British parliament,

He said it was increasingly clear to parliament that a no-deal Brexit scenario on March 29 needed to be avoided and businesses were being vocal about this.

Several pro-EU lawmakers mounted a bid Wednesday to force Britain's government to return to parliament in three days with a plan B for Brexit if  May's deal to leave the EU is voted down next week.

May's de facto deputy cautioned lawmakers that it was a delusion to think the government would be able to negotiate a new divorce deal with the EU if parliament voted down her deal.

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"I don't think the British public are served by fantasies about magical, alternative deals that are somehow going to spring out of a cupboard in Brussels," Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said in an interview with BBC radio.

May's government suffered a defeat in parliament Tuesday when lawmakers who oppose leaving without a deal won a vote on creating a new obstacle to a no-deal Brexit.

The 303 to 296 defeat means the government needs explicit parliamentary approval to leave the EU without a deal. May's office had earlier played down the technical impact of defeat.

Lidington said the vote showed that many lawmakers do not want a "no deal"exit but he cautioned that without an alternative the default position would be leaving without a deal.

Some investors and major banks believe May's deal will be defeated Tuesday but that eventually it will be approved.

The ultimate Brexit outcome will shape Britain's US$2.8 trillion economy, have far-reaching consequences for the unity of the United Kingdom and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centers.

Lawmakers from the governing Conservative Party and opposition Labour Party have put forward an amendment in parliament which would force it to offer alternatives to her deal in three days rather than the planned 21 days.

By reducing the timeframe for the government to come up with alternatives to the proposed deal, it puts additional pressure on May, who looks set to lose the vote Tuesday in a move that would cast her Brexit plans into deeper uncertainty.

Labour's Brexit policy chief, Keir Starmer, said: "If the prime minister's Brexit deal is rejected, parliament must decide what happens next. This amendment has Labour's full support."

British junior Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris said Wednesday he had not seen any plans to suggest May would ask parliament to vote again on her Brexit deal if it is rejected next week.

Asked during a committee hearing how many times the deal would be brought back to the House if it was voted down, Heaton-Harris said, "I have not seen any plans that suggest it would be brought back to the House."

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