British MPs have failed to reach a majority on four alternatives to the government’s Brexit deal.
In a series of non-binding votes on Monday, MPs rejected potential plans to hold a second referendum, retain much closer economic ties with the European Union after Brexit as well as stop Brexit altogether to prevent a no-deal departure.
Legislators voted 292 to 280 against the plan of holding a new referendum, while a cross-party customs union idea was rejected by 276 to 273 votes.
MPs have previously rejected the government’s withdrawal agreement, negotiated with the European Union, which sets out the terms for the UK’s departure from the EU, on three occassions. Prime Minister Theresa May’s so-called divorce deal was defeated by 58 votes in parliament last week.
The UK is set to crash out of the European bloc on April 12, unless parliament passes May’s deal or the government is able to secure a long extension to Brexit.
The result leaves the government with a range of unpalatable choices. It can gamble on a fourth attempt to push May’s unloved deal through Parliament, let Britain tumble out of the bloc without a deal, or roll the dice by opting for a snap election to shake up Parliament.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the government would continue to seek support for a “credible” plan for leaving the EU.
“This house has continuously rejected leaving without a deal just as it has rejected not leaving at all,” he said. “Therefore the only option is to find a way through which allows the UK to leave with a deal.”
Alan Wager, research associate at King’s College London, told Al Jazeera that the rejected options all ceded some control in exchange for some stability.
“These MPs [promoting the alternatives] were arguing that it’s worth losing that political control to get that economic stability,” he said. “MPs aren’t quite sure on that, particularly MPs in the Conservative party, who really want that control and that ability to make trade deals with the rest of the world.”
Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands said the failure to find a majority understandable.
“This is such a divided parliament and this is such a divisive issue,” he said. “We have yet to see MPs coalesce around any one option.
The April 12 deadline, imposed by the EU, gives May less than two weeks to bridge the hostile divide that separates those in her government who want to sever links with the EU and those who want to keep the ties that have bound Britain to the bloc for almost 50 years.
The impasse is raising expectations that lawmakers could try to trigger a snap election in the hope a new configuration in Parliament would break the Brexit logjam. But the Conservatives are worried that could hand power to the opposition Labour party.