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UK's May faces defeat

The British government's Brexit plans were thrown into chaos on Monday, with Prime Minister Theresa May making an emergency statement to lawmakers amid signs she would postpone a Parliamentary vote that will decide the fate of her divorce deal with the European Union.

The House of Commons Speaker's office said May would make the previously unscheduled statement at about 3:30 p.m. The announcement came as May held talks with her Cabinet about the next steps in the Brexit process.

Lawmakers are due to vote Tuesday on the Brexit deal, and all signs have pointed to a big defeat for the prime minister — a result that could sink May's deal, her leadership, or both.

May's office insisted Monday morning that the vote would definitely be held, but the BBC and other outlets reported it would be postponed. An updated House of Commons business statement said there would be a statement on "business of the House" after May's address, indicating a sudden change to the parliamentary schedule.

May's Conservative government does not have a majority in the House of Commons, and opposition parties — as well as dozens of Conservative lawmakers — say they will not back the divorce deal that May and EU leaders agreed last month.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal keeps Britain bound too closely to the EU, while pro-EU politicians say it erects barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner and leaves many details of the future relationship undecided.

The main sticking point is a "backstop" provision that aims to guarantee an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland post-Brexit. The measure would keep Britain under EU customs rules, and is supposed to last until superseded by permanent new trade arrangements. Critics say it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely, unable to strike new trade deals around the world.

Postponing the vote could give May more time to seek concessions from the EU — even though both May and the bloc insist that the Brexit withdrawal agreement can't be changed.

May spoke over the weekend to European Council President Donald Tusk — who will chair an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday — and European leaders including Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, amid signs she was seeking to tweak the deal to win over skeptical lawmakers.



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