London: Prime Minister Theresa May risks another humiliating Brexit defeat at the hands of her own eurosceptic MPs on Friday, with just weeks to go until Britain officially leaves the EU.
Parliament will hold a symbolic vote calling for May to renegotiate her deal's unpopular “backstop” provision and also to rule out leaving the European Union without a deal, as agreed in House of Commons votes last month.
But eurosceptics in the Conservative party's European Research Group (ERG) could abstain from the vote, threatening defeat for May.
“Conservative MPs really ought not to be associated with anything, express or implied, which seems to take no deal off the table,” said leading ERG member Steve Baker.
“Compromising no deal would be the daftest negotiating strategy and not in the national interest.”He criticised the government for making MPs vote on whether to support both measures agreed by parliament last month -- even if they disagree with one -- or hand their own government an embarrassing defeat.
A senior source within the ERG said the group would abstain, according to the Daily Telegraph, which would spell almost certain defeat for May given Labour's opposition to the motion.
But leading Brexiteer Liam Fox warned colleagues that such a result would raise doubts about whether a renegotiated deal could get through parliament, making the EU less likely to make on offer.
“Our European partners will be watching our debate and listening today to see if they get the impression that if they were to make those concessions parliament would definitely deliver,” trade minister Fox told BBC Radio 4. “There's a danger that we send the wrong signals.” May's initial deal was roundly rejected by British MPs last month.