Still, it’s unclear just how far the prime minister is willing to go. Addressing lawmakers on Wednesday, May signaled that she would rule out a so-called soft Brexit preferred by some Labour lawmakers, which would see the country maintain closer links to the EU’s trade rules and regulations after it formally leaves the bloc.
“As things stand right now, the prospects for some sort of cross-party approach to try and find their way out of this mess are pretty meager,” John Springford, the deputy director of the London-based Centre for European Reform, told me. “It requires unprecedented cross-party work, which aren’t really in character for either [the opposition leader] Jeremy Corbyn or for Theresa May.”
While a new British consensus would be welcomed by the EU, which has repeatedly called on Britain to clarify its position, it almost certainly wouldn’t lead to the reopening of negotiations over the transitional deal, which concluded late last year. The best London can hope for is to update the political declaration, a nonbinding part of the agreement that sets out the framework of the United Kingdom and the EU’s future relationship.
Read: Brexit crisis. Theresa May in trouble. Rinse. Repeat.
This means that some of the most controversial aspects of the deal, such as the Irish backstop—a mechanism designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland that some British lawmakers fear could could keep Britain beholden to EU trade rules and regulations indefinitely—would remain unchanged. Though French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that the EU might be willing to “make improvements on one or two things,” substantial changes to the agreement are unlikely. “We’ve reached the maximum of what we could do with the deal and we won’t, just to solve Britain’s domestic political issues, stop defending European interests,” Macron said.
2. Will Corbyn back a second Brexit referendum?
Now that a general election is off the cards—for now—the question facing Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, is what he plans to do next.
So far, he has resisted calls for him to swing the party’s support behind the so-called People’s Vote, a campaign that advocates for another referendum. A lifelong Euroskeptic, Corbyn is unlikely to pivot from his current strategy of simply opposing the government’s Brexit plan.
But as support for a second vote increases, some Labour parliamentarians have begun voicing their impatience. “This is not the time for further pussyfooting around or hesitation by Labour,” David Lammy, a Labour lawmaker and People’s Vote advocate, said Tuesday in a statement. Calling for his party to actively campaign for a new referendum, he added, “Our supporters and members now need the opposition to act.”
3. Will Britain leave the EU by March 29?
Under the EU Withdrawal Act, Britain will leave the EU on March 29 by default, with or without a deal. The vast majority are opposed to leaving without a deal—and have signaled their willingness to request an extension to Article 50, the EU’s time-limited exit procedure, to prevent it. (Though May told the House of Commons on Tuesday that she does not believe the country should delay its exit from the EU, she crucially didn’t rule out an Article 50 extension, either.)