UK politics: Time for talking or time running out as Brexit looms?

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Can Theresa May get Brexit back on track?

Theresa May looks to speak to MPs following her Commons defeat, but Jeremy Corbyn has other ideas. The Tradefair team brings you the latest in UK Politics...

“A lot of my colleagues in the House of Commons have said that if we make changes on the backstop we’d be willing to vote for the agreement.”

Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary

What comes after the Withdrawal Agreement rejection?

There can be few more troublesome situations than one in which almost nobody gets what they want - and that appears to be the case right now as Brexit looms.

At the heart of the massive rejection by the House of Commons of the proposed withdrawal deal - the defeat by 230 votes was the largest a sitting government in Britain has ever suffered - was the fact that it left so many dissatisfied.

It was not just that it did not meet Labour's own six tests - which were always designed to ensure the party could and would vote against the deal; but the fact that both remainers and leavers in the Conservative ranks were unhappy with it. The Irish backstop issue was not only too much for the DUP to stomach, but large parts of the Conservative parliamentary party too.

Indeed, the size of the rebellion among the Tory ranks in this division was almost identical to the voting figures in last month's no-confidence vote in Mrs May's leadership.

The rejection of the deal also left the EU without what it wanted, although there is evidently no appetite in Brussels to reopen negotiations.

Red's stance

Labour's position has been to press for a general election and then, as a second resort, another referendum. However, Jeremy Corbyn was left without what he wanted too, as the DUP and Tory rebels came back on board to defeat his no-confidence motion. Moreover, to the chagrin of most of his party, Mr Corbyn remains resistant to calls for a so-called 'people's vote'.

Seeking a way forward, Mrs May has opened her door to talks with MPs from her own party and others to try to find something that can command a majority in the Commons. All the other party leaders bar Mr Corbyn have spoken with the Prime Minister. The Labour leader insisted Mrs May would have to rule out 'no-deal' first, to which she replied that this would be the default position unless a deal was agreed or Brexit cancelled altogether, and thus not something she could guarantee.

Even if Mr Corbyn did talk to Mrs May, it is hard to see what could be agreed. Neither want a second referendum, while the Labour leader's preference for "a customs union" - as distinct from the customs union - is sure to alienate many Brexiteers across the house.

More pointedly, staying in a customs union relationship could be a resignation issue for some ministers, including Liam Fox, who remained loyal after the Chequers agreement was drawn up even as Boris Johnson and David Davis resigned. He has strongly hinted this would be the straw that breaks the camel's back, as it would "not be delivering Brexit". Yet others would quit if Mrs May stops their efforts to prevent a no-deal.

While the debates and arguments rage on, the clock ticks and the markets are likely to get increasingly volatile. The prospect of a no-deal situation is one businesses dread, but the pound has had a few jumps in recent days, not least amid speculation that Article 50 may be extended or the sentiment that a 'people's vote' could be the only thing that would command majority support in the Commons.

Equally, the markets may suddenly shoot up on any sign of a dramatic breakthrough that could bridge the apparently unbridgeable chasm.

Quite simply, it is almost impossible to be sure what will happen next.

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