Parliament Becomes Britain’s New Brexit Casualty


Mark Duffy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For months, Britain’s embattled prime minister, Theresa May, has taken much of the blame for the handling of the withdrawal from the European Union. Now the tarnishing has spread to Parliament.

On Tuesday, lawmakers gave Mrs. May a mandate to renegotiate a legally binding exit deal with the European Union, known as Brexit, even though the bloc says the negotiation cannot be reopened. And, while lawmakers protested the looming prospect of a potentially disastrous exit in less than two months without any agreement, they refused to take the power to stop it.

“I think it’s a travesty that, at this point in the proceedings, with the country facing a grave political and economic crisis, members of Parliament have been voting for things that the European Union says it cannot agree,” said Simon Tilford, an expert on Europe at Chatham House, a research institute based in London.

“What was striking was how reluctant members of Parliament were to do anything that could be interpreted as taking back control,” Mr. Tilford added. Brexit, he said, had “discredited the British Parliament and shown the whole British political class in a thoroughly unserious light.”

On Wednesday Mrs. May was preparing for a battle with the European Union, whose leaders have already rejected her new plan endorsed by Parliament to break the Brexit deadlock. Some also warned that the risks of a disorderly departure are rising.

For Mrs. May, the votes in Parliament at least won her some time. She can still hope that, as the March 29 exit day comes closer, the European Union might offer her concessions and more lawmakers might eventually support a revised version for her unpopular agreement, for fear of a no-deal exit.

Mrs. May held private discussions Wednesday on Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, who had until now refused the offer of talks. That meeting took place in the House of Commons, depriving…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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