Pro-European ministers in Theresa May’s Cabinet are plotting to secure a Brexit they can live with.
Six ministers have urged May to force Parliament to vote informally on a range of Brexit outcomes, according to people familiar with the situation. The plan is to show that there’s no majority for any kind of divorce in a bid to get lawmakers to accept a compromise.
Once it’s clear that no one’s first option commands enough support, the idea is that May’s deal - which is widely loathed - might then look like a reasonable compromise with a decent chance of success, according to two Cabinet ministers.
But it could also flush out support for keeping closer ties to the bloc than the premier is proposing. There’s even a chance that the exercise could point the way to a second referendum, which May has repeatedly rejected.
May - who survived a leadership challenge on Wednesday - doesn’t like the plan as it could have unforeseen consequences, according to one of the people.
Ministers including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Education Secretary Damian Hinds are urging May to hold a series of "indicative votes", according to eight people familiar with the situation.
There’s pressure to hold the votes as soon as next week, according to three of the people.
May abandoned a vote in parliament this week on her deal as she expected to lose it by a wide margin. She’s now seeking some tweaks to the agreement in the hope that will make it more acceptable to lawmakers. Still, the European Union has made it clear that only clarifications, rather than real changes, are on offer.
No date has been set for another vote in Parliament, and May has indicated she thinks she has until January 21 to have another go.
With just over 100 days until Britain is due to leave the European Union, Parliament is split over what Brexit should mean. May’s proposal doesn’t have a majority, but neither does the looser arrangement favoured by Brexiteers. It’s not clear if a Norway-style deal preferred by Europhiles would command a majority.