(Bloomberg) -- Conservative allies are urging U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to delay her Brexit vote while she tries to find a way to avoid a devastating defeat in Parliament next week.
Graham Brady, the influential chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative Party lawmakers, suggested May should postpone Tuesday’s vote to give her time to strike a compromise with pro-Brexit lawmakers over a mechanism for ending the so-called Northern Ireland backstop.
May has been meeting with Tory rebels and ministers all week in an attempt to find a way through this particular obstacle of the Brexit puzzle, which has divided her party and the country.
“I’m sure the House of Commons would be happy to give her a few more days,” Brady said in an interview with Sky News. It came after May met with senior MPs on Thursday to discuss the growing prospect of defeat in Parliament. “I don’t think there’s any point in plowing ahead and losing the vote heavily.”
Many lawmakers who are opposed to the deal say it could lock the U.K. into the backstop indefinitely, in essence binding Britain to the EU customs union. Even though May says the backstop is unlikely to be used, the current agreement provides no legal assurances to prevent such a scenario from happening.
Britain and the EU agreed the backstop in order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The backstop will kick in if the two sides don’t find a lasting solution to avoiding checks at the border.
“It puts us in a formidably bad negotiating position for the future,” former Brexit Secretary David Davis said on Thursday. Parliament has been debating on the deal for three days.
May said she’s in talks to offer Parliament a say over whether to extend the Brexit transition period beyond Dec. 2020 if needed, rather than enter into the backstop arrangement. But there are also other ideas that could be more attractive to Brexit-backers, according to a government official, who declined to be named.
It’s also possible that an amendment to Tuesday’s bill proposed by one of her fiercest critics ends up sparing her from a major blow. A wrecking amendment to the deal drafted by Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn and signed by Labour and Conservative members, calls for May’s agreement to be ripped up, and for the government to rule out a no-deal Brexit. If it passes, there would be no point in the government continuing to push its motion.
--With assistance from Alex Morales.
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