Brexit deal in turmoil as May postpones Parliament vote

Brexit deal in turmoil as May postpones Parliament vote
In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP) (PARBUL)

LONDON (AP) — Facing almost certain defeat, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday postponed a vote in Parliament on her Brexit deal, saying she would go back to European Union leaders to seek changes to the divorce agreement.

May's move threw Britain's Brexit plans into disarray, intensified a domestic political crisis and battered the pound. With EU officials adamant the withdrawal deal was not up for renegotiation, the country does not know on what terms it will leave — and whether May will still be Britain's leader when it does.

In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, May accepted that the divorce deal she struck last month with EU leaders was likely to be rejected "by a significant margin" if the vote were held Tuesday as planned.

May said she would defer the vote so she could seek "assurances" from the EU and bring the deal back to Parliament. She did not set a new date for the vote. The U.K.'s departure is supposed to take place on March 29.

Opposition lawmakers — and ones from May's Conservative Party — were incredulous and angry. Some accused her of trampling on parliamentary democracy.

The words "Peoples Vote", which calls for another referendum on Britain's European Union membership, stand lit up after being placed there by anti-Brexit supporters across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The words "Peoples Vote", which calls for another referendum on Britain's European Union membership, stand lit up after being placed there by anti-Brexit supporters across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP)

"The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray," Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

Corbyn demanded, and was granted, an emergency debate Tuesday on the postponement. But Labour lawmaker Lloyd Russell-Moyle was expelled from Parliament for the day after he grabbed the House of Commons' ceremonial mace as a sign of protest.

In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP)
In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP) (AP)

The centuries-old gilded staff is the symbol of royal authority. Without it, the Commons can't meet or pass laws.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading pro-Brexit Conservative, expressed despair at the Brexit shambles.

In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP)
In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP) (AP)

"It's not really governing," he said. "It's just an awful muddle."

Monday's turmoil sent the pound to a 20-month low against the dollar of $1.2550.

A person dressed as British Prime Minister Theresa May at a "Brexit Fudge" pop-up shop organised by pro-Europe activists Best for Britain outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday Dec. 10, 2018. MP's are scheduled to vote on the EU withdrawal agreement on upcoming Tuesday.(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
A person dressed as British Prime Minister Theresa May at a "Brexit Fudge" pop-up shop organised by pro-Europe activists Best for Britain outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday Dec. 10, 2018. MP's are scheduled to vote on the EU withdrawal agreement on upcoming Tuesday.(AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

It was a new blow for May, who became prime minister after Britain's 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU. She has been battling ever since — first to strike a divorce deal with the bloc, then to sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.

May insisted the agreement hammered out with the EU after a year and a half of negotiations was "the best deal that is negotiable." But it has been scorned by lawmakers on all sides of Britain's debate about Europe.

In this photo taken on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 a woman walks by the entrance to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The European Union's top court ruled Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
In this photo taken on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 a woman walks by the entrance to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The European Union's top court ruled Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) (AP)

Derisive laughter erupted in the House of Commons when May claimed there was "broad support" for many aspects of the deal.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal keeps Britain bound too closely to the EU, while pro-EU politicians say it erects barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner and leaves many details of the future relationship undecided.

FILE- In this Dec. 8, 2017 file photo, UK's Union Flag, left, and the EU flag, flap in the wind outside EU headquarters in Brussels. The European Union's top court ruled Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
FILE- In this Dec. 8, 2017 file photo, UK's Union Flag, left, and the EU flag, flap in the wind outside EU headquarters in Brussels. The European Union's top court ruled Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File) (AP)

The main sticking point is a "backstop" provision that aims to guarantee an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland after Brexit. The measure would keep Britain under EU customs rules, and is supposed to last until it is superseded by permanent new trade arrangements.

Critics say it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely, unable to strike new trade deals around the world.

Demonstrators hold placards and flags at the "Brexit Betrayal Rally", a pro-Brexit rally, on Whitehall in London, Sunday Dec. 9, 2018. With a crucial parliamentary vote on Brexit looming, British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers Sunday that they could take Britain into "uncharted waters" and trigger a general election if they reject the divorce deal she struck with the European Union. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Demonstrators hold placards and flags at the "Brexit Betrayal Rally", a pro-Brexit rally, on Whitehall in London, Sunday Dec. 9, 2018. With a crucial parliamentary vote on Brexit looming, British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers Sunday that they could take Britain into "uncharted waters" and trigger a general election if they reject the divorce deal she struck with the European Union. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

May said she would hold talks with EU leaders ahead of a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, seeking "further reassurances" over the backstop.

"Nothing should be off the table," she said.

Bags of fudge confectionary entitled May's Brexit Fudge, is displayed by a person dressed as British Prime Minister Theresa May at a "Brexit Fudge" pop-up shop organised by pro-Europe activists Best for Britain outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday Dec. 10, 2018. The pressure group are poking fun at Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal with Europe as MP's are scheduled to vote on the EU withdrawal agreement on upcoming Tuesday.(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Bags of fudge confectionary entitled May's Brexit Fudge, is displayed by a person dressed as British Prime Minister Theresa May at a "Brexit Fudge" pop-up shop organised by pro-Europe activists Best for Britain outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday Dec. 10, 2018. The pressure group are poking fun at Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal with Europe as MP's are scheduled to vote on the EU withdrawal agreement on upcoming Tuesday.(AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

EU leaders signaled they are prepared to help Britain, up to a point, but insisted the Brexit agreement could not be changed.

"The deal is the deal," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said. "It's taken two years to put together. It's a fair deal for both sides."

A view of a sculpture by London based Italian artist Matt Marga "One Million Queen" which depicts a profile of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The sculpture has been defaced with Brexit graffiti. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
A view of a sculpture by London based Italian artist Matt Marga "One Million Queen" which depicts a profile of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The sculpture has been defaced with Brexit graffiti. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: "We will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate U.K. ratification."

A key member of the European parliament's Brexit team, Green lawmaker Philippe Lamberts, predicted May's shuttle diplomacy would fail to secure changes.

A view of a sculpture by London based Italian artist Matt Marga "One Million Queen" which depicts a profile of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The sculpture has been defaced with Brexit graffiti. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
A view of a sculpture by London based Italian artist Matt Marga "One Million Queen" which depicts a profile of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The sculpture has been defaced with Brexit graffiti. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

"The only net result of this round of capitals will be an additional amount of CO2 in the atmosphere," he said.

Despite May's dogged determination to press on, the tumult leaves her in a precarious position. Conservative rivals are preparing for a potential leadership challenge, and Labour has threatened call for a no-confidence motion in the government.

A view of a sculpture by London based Italian artist Matt Marga "One Million Queen" which depicts a profile of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The sculpture has been defaced with Brexit graffiti. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
A view of a sculpture by London based Italian artist Matt Marga "One Million Queen" which depicts a profile of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The sculpture has been defaced with Brexit graffiti. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her Scottish National Party would support an attempt to topple the government and trigger a new election.

"This shambles can't go on — so how about it?" Sturgeon tweeted at Corbyn.

In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP)
In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP) (AP)

Corbyn stopped short of calling a no-confidence vote Monday, but said if May could not renegotiate with the EU, "then she must make way."

Delays in approving the Brexit deal increase the chances of Britain crashing out of the EU with no agreement. The government and the Bank of England have warned that could bring logjams to British ports and plunge the country into its deepest recession in decades.

In this grab taken from video, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, speaks following British Prime Minister Theresa May's, second left, statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP)
In this grab taken from video, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, speaks following British Prime Minister Theresa May's, second left, statement in the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat _ a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (PA via AP) (AP)

May said the government would step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit in order to mitigate its worst effects. It has already stockpiled medicines and other key goods.

Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the Confederation of British Industry, said the delay was "yet another blow for companies desperate for clarity."

A remain in the European Union anti-Brexit supporter dressed as Santa holds a placard and protests across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May looked set Monday to postpone Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat, throwing Brexit plans into chaos just weeks after Britain and the bloc finally reached an agreement on the U.K.'s departure. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A remain in the European Union anti-Brexit supporter dressed as Santa holds a placard and protests across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May looked set Monday to postpone Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat, throwing Brexit plans into chaos just weeks after Britain and the bloc finally reached an agreement on the U.K.'s departure. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP)

"Investment plans have been paused for two-and-a-half years," she said. "Unless a deal is agreed quickly, the country risks sliding towards a national crisis."

May has also warned that rejecting her deal could result in Britain not leaving the EU at all.

Remaining in the European Union supporters, including one dressed as Santa, hold placards and protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May looked set Monday to postpone Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat, throwing Brexit plans into chaos just weeks after Britain and the bloc finally reached an agreement on the U.K.'s departure. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Remaining in the European Union supporters, including one dressed as Santa, hold placards and protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May looked set Monday to postpone Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat, throwing Brexit plans into chaos just weeks after Britain and the bloc finally reached an agreement on the U.K.'s departure. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP)

Some campaigners in the U.K. want just that. They got a boost Monday when the EU's top court ruled that Britain can change its mind over Brexit if it wants.

Britain invoked Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process. A group of Scottish legislators had asked the European Court of Justice to rule on whether the U.K. could pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.

The words "Peoples Vote", which calls for another referendum on Britain's European Union membership, stand lit up after being placed by anti-Brexit supporters across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The words "Peoples Vote", which calls for another referendum on Britain's European Union membership, stand lit up after being placed by anti-Brexit supporters across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP)

The court said Monday that when an EU member country has notified the bloc of its intent to leave, "that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification."

May has repeatedly said the government will not seek to delay or reverse Brexit. She said Monday that Parliament had a duty to "get Brexit done and get it done right. "

A fox runs past 10 Downing Street, in London, Monday Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday postponed Parliament’s vote on her Brexit deal with the European Union, acknowledging that lawmakers would have rejected it by a “significant margin.” (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
A fox runs past 10 Downing Street, in London, Monday Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday postponed Parliament’s vote on her Brexit deal with the European Union, acknowledging that lawmakers would have rejected it by a “significant margin.” (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

And she urged lawmakers to unite in a spirit of conciliation — a plea that has, so far, fallen on deaf ears.

"There will be no enduring and successful Brexit without some compromise on both sides of the debate," May said.

The lit up words "Peoples Vote", which calls for another referendum on Britain's European Union membership, are photographed by a remain, anti-Brexit supporter wearing a European flag design beret across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The lit up words "Peoples Vote", which calls for another referendum on Britain's European Union membership, are photographed by a remain, anti-Brexit supporter wearing a European flag design beret across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP)

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Associated Press writers Lorne Cook and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed.

Remain, anti-Brexit supporters take part in a protest across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Remain, anti-Brexit supporters take part in a protest across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed Parliament's vote on her European Union divorce deal to avoid a shattering defeat — a decision that throws her Brexit plans into chaos.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP)

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See the AP's Brexit coverage at: https://apnews.com/Brexit