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Brexit crisis: PM pushed in seven different directions

Theresa May is facing calls to head in seven different possible directions amid the Brexit crisis.

The prime minister saw her Brexit deal defeated for a third time in the House of Commons on Friday, which continues to leave her unable to break the deadlock at Westminster.

Under the terms of a delay to Brexit she agreed with EU leaders, Mrs May has to present a way forward within the next two weeks.

This is likely to come before an emergency EU summit on 10 April, which was called following the third heavy Commons defeat for the prime minister's withdrawal agreement.

Ahead of that deadline, Mrs May is now being pushed in at least seven different directions by MPs and campaigners on both sides of the Brexit debate.

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:: A no-deal Brexit

Former Tory minister Alistair Burt told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday show that the prime minister is "under huge pressure" from some cabinet ministers and other Conservative MPs to now turn towards a no-deal Brexit.

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However, Mr Burt also warned there is another faction of ministers who are prepared to resign from government in order to try and prevent a no-deal Brexit.

"There are, I'm not going to put a number on it but that really shouldn't be in a way what we're talking about," he said.

Mr Burt resigned from the government last week in order to support a plan for MPs to hold so-called indicative votes on different Brexit options.

Alistair Burt MP on Ridge on Sunday.
PM 'under huge pressure' over no deal

He added: "I don't want to see more resignations – my colleagues and I want to see a situation in which we've made an agreement and we've done what we think the British people have wanted to do, which is leave the EU but leave on good terms."

One of those cabinet ministers who would resign if the prime minister opted for a no-deal Brexit is Justice Secretary David Gauke, who described leaving the EU without a divorce agreement as "very, very bad news".

On Mrs May's position on a no-deal Brexit, Mr Gauke told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "Parliament is not going to allow us to go down that route and that is not a course of action she is going to take."

:: Her deal

Mr Gauke didn't rule out her withdrawal agreement being put to MPs for a fourth time in the coming days.

He refused to say Mrs May's deal is now dead and – with MPs set to discuss alternative options again on Monday – he added: "One of the options that still remains there is the prime minister's deal."

However, Mr Gauke said "no decision" has yet been made on whether to put forward Mrs May's deal once more.

:: Compromise on a customs union

Last week, in a series of indicative votes in the House of Commons, none of the eight Brexit options being considered secured a majority.

However, former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin, who has spearheaded the indicative votes process, is set to push on with a second round of voting on Monday.

This could yet see MPs recommend pursuing a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy
Labour's Lisa Nandy: 'We are breaking our democracy'

Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who represents Leave-supporting Wigan, suggested the inclusion of a customs union in the political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship – which makes up one half of Mrs May's deal – could see her finally vote for the prime minister's agreement.

She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday that in coming days she hopes to see "strong support across the Tory and Labour benches for a form of soft Brexit.

"Then it's really up to the prime minister."

Mr Gauke said the government would "look closely" at any option backed by a majority of MPs, as he left open the possibility of the government agreeing to a customs union.

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The cabinet minister does not favour a customs union, noting it breaches the Conservatives' manifesto from the 2017 election, but added: "We are in an environment when it is not just about going for your first choice.

"Sometimes you do have to accept your second or third choice in order to avoid an outcome you consider to be even worse."

However, former Tory minister Grant Shapps hinted at the anger that would await Mrs May from Conservative MPs if she switched to supporting a customs union.

He posted on Twitter: "It simply beggars belief that any MP could vote for a #CustomsUnion. Would mean EU setting our trade policy with the rest of the world, WITHOUT our having ANY say!"

:: General election

The prime minister's aides are reported to be split on whether to push for a general election if she continues to fail to get her Brexit deal agreed by MPs, with Mrs May herself having hinted at going to the polls after her agreement was defeated for a third time.

Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly admitted the party was undertaking "sensible and pragmatic" contingency planning for an election as the Tories "have got a minority Government in a turbulent time".

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly
Tory deputy chair: We're not seeking election

But he stressed the Conservatives are "not seeking" a national poll, telling Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "I don't think an election would solve anything.

"Time is of the essence, we have got Brexit to deliver. We don't want to add any more unnecessary delay."

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show his party are "gearing up for an election".

:: Second referendum

Mr Watson also claimed a second EU referendum is "the only way we can bring the country back together", adding there is an "emerging consensus" that any Brexit deal must be put to a public ballot.

The Labour deputy leader suggested it would be "inconceivable" that a second EU referendum would not be in the party's manifesto if a snap general election was called.

Despite a Sky Data poll revealing 70% of Leave voters want a no-deal Brexit, Watson dismissed it as an option in a second EU referendum.

"You can't just go on myths and unicorns on this," he said.

Emily Thornberry in the studio on Ridge on Sunday.
May is 'out of control' – Thornberry

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told Sophy Ridge there is "a strong argument to ask people to have the final say" on Brexit, as she confirmed she would campaign to stay in the EU if there is a second referendum.

Ms Thornberry added: "I personally don't really understand why 70% of the population at this moment don't want to remain in the EU. But they don't."

:: National government

Former prime minister Sir John Major said, if the Brexit deadlock continues at Westminster, there could be a need for a cross-party government of national unity.

"I think it would be in the national interest to have a cross-party government so that we can take decisions without the chaos that we're seeing in Parliament at the moment where every possible alternative is rejected," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

:: Cancel Brexit

A petition calling on the government to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit has now attracted six million signatures.

MPs will debate the petition, the best ever supported parliamentary petition, on Monday.

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