Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote in the British parliament on Wednesday before inviting other party leaders for immediate talks to try to break the impasse on a Brexit divorce agreement.
Lawmakers voted 325 to 306 that they had confidence in May’s government, just 24 hours after handing her European Union withdrawal deal a crushing defeat that left Britain’s exit from the bloc in disarray.
With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the United Kingdom is now in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project it joined in 1973.
After the results of the confidence vote were announced to cheers from Conservative lawmakers, May said she believed parliament had a duty to find a solution that delivered on the 2016 Brexit referendum result.
“To that end, I have proposed a series of meetings between senior parliamentarians and representatives of the government over the coming days,” May told parliament.
“I would like to invite the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with me individually, and I would like to start these meetings tonight.”
But with lawmakers deadlocked on the way forward, the United Kingdom could face a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit, a delay to Brexit, or even another referendum on membership.
The votes on Tuesday and Wednesday brought into sharp relief the problem May faces; trying to win over pro-EU supporters in her own and other parties without alienating those who keep her in power – for instance, by giving up the “no-deal Brexit” that they see as a crucial bargaining chip.
Hardline Brexit-supporters in her party, who last month made an unsuccessful attempt to oust her, and the Northern Irish party that props up her minority government will not countenance a deal that keeps close trade ties with the EU.
“The confidence and supply arrangement (to support May) of course is built upon delivering Brexit on the basis of our shared priorities,” said Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.