LONDON — On the day that Britain was originally scheduled to leave the European Union, lawmakers will vote Friday on what Prime Minister Theresa May's government described as the “last chance to vote for Brexit.”
The House of Commons is voting a third time on May's twice-rejected European Union withdrawal agreement amid continuing opposition from hard-line Brexit supporters and Northern Ireland lawmakers.
The agreement still faces substantial opposition even after May sacrificed her job for her deal, promising to quit if lawmakers approved the deal and let Britain leave the EU in May.
Most analysts say there is little hope of approval unless May can secure the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, which has refused to back the agreement because it treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K. The small party has 10 seats in the House of Commons and some Brexit backers say they will take their cue from the DUP.
Parliament is voting Friday on the 585-page withdrawal agreement that sets out the terms of Britain's departure — including its financial settlement with the EU and the rights of EU and U.K. citizens — but not a shorter declaration on future ties that is also part of the divorce deal agreed between the U.K. and the EU late last year.
Its removal altered the deal enough to overcome a ban against asking lawmakers the same question over and over again.
May also hoped severing the link between the two parts of the deal would blunt opposition — though there was little sign of that.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said removing the political declaration from the vote made Brexit “blind, because you don't know where you are going, now the prime minister has said she is stepping down.”
“So, the political declaration, the future relationship, is going now to be determined in a Tory leadership exercise,” he said.
Two years ago, Britain triggered a two-year countdown to Brexit, with the departure date set for March 29, 2019.
But with British politicians deadlocked over whether to approve a divorce deal, the EU last week granted an extension. Under its terms, if the withdrawal agreement is approved by 11 p.m. U.K. time (2300GMT, 7 p.m. EDT), Britain will leave the 28-nation bloc on May 22.
If it is rejected, Britain has until April 12 to announce a new plan, or leave the EU without a deal, risking severe disruption for people and businesses.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Friday was “the last chance we have to vote for Brexit as we understood it.”
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