London (CNN)Britain’s Brexit journey has been plagued by uncertainty — but on Wednesday we might get the answer to these two questions: Firstly, can Prime Minister Theresa May put her deal and the stability of the country ahead of her political career and pledge to step down as leader to secure those two things? Secondly, can the UK Parliament find an alternative plan to help Britain leave the EU under different terms?
May has so far insisted she will not announce her resignation — a position in keeping with her steadfastness and, at times, intransigence in office.
But should May decide to hint at her resignation, she could gain majority support in Parliament for her Brexit plan, nearly five months after it was agreed with Brussels and after weeks of argument and successive defeats.
Parliament’s next move
Some prominent Conservative Brexit supporters have indicated they will back May’s deal when it eventually returns to Parliament for the third time. But, they argue, more will support her plan if she announces her resignation.
If the prime minister refuses, the battle of wills between May and her own members of Parliament (MPs) will continue to rage. This will make it less likely that her Brexit plan is passed by Parliament.
Which brings us to the second question: what will Parliament do next?
This afternoon, lawmakers from all parties will debate a menu of alternative Brexit plans — including a hard, no-deal Brexit, a softer deal that would keep the UK in a single market with Europe and even canceling the departure from the EU.
While this will not offer a Plan B for Brexit today — MPs will learn, over a series of indicative votes, which alternative has the most support.
A firmer result will emerge in a second round of voting next Monday.
It is possible, of course, that there is no consensus for any alternative plan and the concept of lawmakers taking control of Brexit from the prime minister — triggered by a vote earlier this week — will have failed.
But MPs at least finally have a chance to try to make it work.
May puts the pressure on lawmakers in Brexit address
Not legally binding?
Paradoxically, it would suit May for a softer Brexit to emerge as the favorite among lawmakers.
That’s because her allies believe it will focus the minds of Conservatives — and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose votes the government relies on for a working majority — who refuse to back her deal.
They will be presented with a clear choice: Support the prime minister’s plan or risk losing their dream of autonomy from Brussels by facing a soft Brexit.
It is not clear whether any alternative plan would be implemented by the prime minister, despite lawmakers seizing control of the Brexit process through Parliament.
Her aides say she does not need to accept an alternative because the votes are only indicative — and not legally binding.
However, the UK government’s top law officer, the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, told the cabinet last night that the government would be obliged to accept whatever alternative was produced from the indicative vote process.
Separately, today is the last chance for Conservative Brexiteers to try to force the country to leave the EU this Friday, March 29 — the date when Brexit was originally supposed to take place.
Last week, Brussels approved a two-speed extension to Brexit — to either April 12 or May 22 — to give May time to get her deal through or come up with an alternative.
After the indicative voting Wednesday, the government will put forward a motion to confirm that proposed extension.
There is talk of some Conservatives rebelling against the government in the vote on this tonight to make a no-deal Brexit happen on Friday. This rebellion is likely to fail, given Parliament has twice voted against no deal. But yet another revolt would be embarrassing for the prime minister.
Today’s events are likely to throw up more uncertainties and questions, but two things at least will become clearer by their end.
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