After the EU offered the U.K. a short delay in its planned departure from the bloc, Prime Minister Theresa May hinted March 22 that she may not bring her Brexit deal back to Parliament if it looks doomed to fail, while one of her Cabinet ministers said the government will allow lawmakers to hold a series of indicative votes on other Brexit options.
The EU said March 21 that the March 29 Brexit date would be extended until May 22 if the U.K. Parliament ratifies a Brexit deal in the next week. If lawmakers again fail to approve a deal, London would be given until April 12 to decide on its course of action, which still includes the possibility of crashing out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place.
In a letter to lawmakers obtained by the BBC, May said that if it appears that there is not enough support for her Brexit deal to finally be passed, the U.K. can ask for another delay to its departure from the EU before the April 12 deadline. She repeated previous warnings that a longer extension will oblige the U.K. to hold European Parliament elections, which begin May 23.
The U.K. House of Commons rejected May's Brexit pact for the second time in a 391-242 vote March 12. Speaker John Bercow has said the deal cannot be put to another vote if it stays substantially unchanged.
Meanwhile, Business Minister Greg Clark told the BBC that the government will allow indicative votes, enabling "Parliament to express a majority of what it would approve."
"The commitment that the government has made seems to me very clear: The government will provide that, so there's no reason why the government should be forced to do something that it is committed to do anyway," Reuters quoted Clark as saying.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News that a proposal to allow indicative votes, which was previously defeated in Parliament by a narrow margin, will be tabled again March 25, and the votes could be held March 27.
According to Sky News, the alternative Brexit plans include revoking Article 50, the legal clause under which the U.K. is set to quit the EU; a second referendum; a standard trade deal with the EU; May's deal including retaining membership in the EU customs union; and her deal including membership in the customs union and the single market.
Sterling was up 0.69% against the U.S. dollar, at $1.32, as of 8:10 p.m. in London.