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Defeat: It seems the EU has proved to be the demise of another Conservative leader. Are we heading for another general election? If so, it seems unlikely Theresa May will lead the Tories into it.

Theresa May has admitted defeat on her Brexit deal.

She has told Parliament there is not enough support for it, so a third “meaningful vote” on it will not happen this week. She says she still wants to drum up support for it, but commentators are likely to conclude that such an outcome seems unrealistic now.

This means the terms of the EU’s offer to extend to Brexit deadline until May 22 cannot be met and Parliament now has until April 12 to set forth options for a way forward.

This opens the way for Parliament to hold a series of “indicative” votes on the form Brexit should take.

Some may say this should have been done long ago. Better late than never? But Mrs May told the Commons today (March 25) that she is sceptical about such a process and may not act on the results.

Here’s the crucial part:

She said no MP can commit to accepting something that contradicts the manifesto on which they were elected.

In that case, if MPs decide to support a departure from the EU that conflicts with Mrs May’s aims as stated in May 2017, it seems the UK is set for its third general election in four years. Some may say it will happen not a moment too soon!

Of course, the Conservative manifesto for the 2017 General Election was a hugely malleable thing, and the minority government that followed the election result pretty much threw it away in its entirety, the instant it took office – so Mrs May’s caveat may be a little rich for some tastes.

At the time of writing, Parliament has yet to agree the EU’s extension to April 12. If it doesn’t, we leave the EU on Friday (March 29) amid legal confusion. I think we can assume that it will.

  • Then Parliament will have to consider alternative options – most probably via the “indicative” votes that Mrs May doesn’t want. Options include:
  • Leaving with no deal;
  • Cancelling Brexit by revoking Article 50 (this may become a viable option by that date as the petition calling for revocation creeps towards the kind of numbers needed to show popular opinion has shifted against it); or
  • A further extension of Article 50.

If the last option is chosen, then the UK would be dragged into the European Parliament elections and the most likely options would be renegotiation of Brexit, a second referendum, or a general election.

Perhaps Mrs May has had enough and is preparing to skip straight to the election.

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