LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May was under intense pressure Monday to resign as the price of breaking the country’s Brexit impasse and winning support for her unloved EU divorce deal.

May held an emergency Cabinet meeting after the European Union granted Britain a delay to its exit in hope its deadlocked politicians can find a solution to the crisis.

But ministers didn’t decide whether to hold a new vote on the deal this week, and the EU isn’t counting on British politicians being able. The European Commission said Monday it had completed planning for a “no-deal” Brexit – an outcome it called “increasingly likely.”

Britain’s best-selling newspaper, The Sun, piled pressure on May with a front-page call for the prime minister to resign, under the headline “Time’s up, Theresa.”

Almost three years after Britons voted to walk away from the EU, the bloc’s leaders seized control of the Brexit timetable last week to avert a chaotic departure at the end of this month that would be disruptive for the world’s biggest trading bloc and deeply damaging for Britain.

For two years, Britain’s departure date was set for March 29, 2019. Now, if the U.K. Parliament approves the divorce deal May struck with the bloc, it will leave the EU on May 22. If not, the U.K. has until April 12 to tell EU leaders what it plans to do – leave without a deal, cancel Brexit or chart a new path.


May hopes to bring her twice-rejected divorce deal back to Parliament for a third vote this week. But she stands little chance of getting it approved unless she can win over Brexit-backing lawmakers in her Conservative Party and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP said Monday that the party’s “position remains unchanged.”

At a meeting Sunday at the prime minister’s country retreat, Chequers, prominent Brexiteers told May they might back the deal — if she agreed to step down so that a new leader could take charge of the next phase of negotiations, which will settle Britain’s future relations with the EU.

“Clearly, a number of people do not want the prime minister anywhere near the next phase of negotiations, which is the future trading relationship between ourselves and the EU,” pro-Brexit lawmaker Nigel Evans said Monday.

One of the attendees, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, accused the government of lacking “gumption” and chickening out on delivering Brexit. Writing in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, Johnson said that to win support for her deal, May must show that the next phase of negotiations “will be different from the first.”

That sounded like a hint he could support the deal if May agreed to quit. Johnson is likely to be a contender in any future Conservative leadership race.

May is hanging on, hoping she can persuade Brexit-backing lawmakers that rejecting her deal means Britain may never leave the EU.


Hundreds of thousands of people marched through London on Saturday calling for a new referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain, and opponents of Brexit feel the political tide may be turning in their favor.

Meanwhile, pro-EU lawmakers plan to try to take control of the process out of the government’s hands by holding a series of votes on alternatives to May’s deal.

They hope these “indicative votes” on options including a new EU membership referendum or a “soft Brexit” that maintains close economic ties to the bloc, can find a majority for a new path.

But any such votes wouldn’t be legally binding, and May’s government has so far refused to alter its Brexit “red lines.”

The European Commission said Monday that it had finished planning for a no-deal Brexit, which could occur on April 12. The remaining 27 EU countries are hiring hundreds of people to conduct extra border and customs checks as well as to staff call centers set up to handle Brexit inquiries.

The commission warned that despite the preparations, a cliff-edge Brexit would cause “significant disruption for citizens and businesses” in the bloc. It said new tariffs and border checks would cause delays for both people and goods.


The bloc also said that more remained to be done on ensuring an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland — something both sides have agreed to. Checkpoints there were a source of great tensions during the bloody Irish “troubles” from 1968 until the Good Friday peace agreement was sealed in 1998.

An EU official said the bloc was in “in intense discussions with the Irish authorities about these matters.”

With the deadline for a Brexit decision less than three weeks away, British politicians remain divided, and increasingly despairing about the country’s political gridlock.

“Brexit is like the Death Star of politics,” Conservative legislator George Freeman said. “I always feared it would be like this. It’s destroying and soaking up all the prime minister’s room for manoeuver and political goodwill.

“I’ve never known this country so divided, so angry and in such a dangerous state,” he said.

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