London – Britain’s Parliament is deadlocked over plans to leave the European Union. The country’s ruling Conservative Party is fractured by an undeclared leadership contest. Opposition parties are baying for an early general election.

A power vacuum has paralyzed the heart of Britain’s government, dismaying both the European Union and the British public.

In the next two weeks, British Prime Minister Theresa May will lead the U.K. through domestic and international negotiations that will decide the fate of Brexit and determine the future of generations. Her task, as it’s been for almost three years, is to bridge the increasingly bitter divide that separates those 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.

“In any other circumstance, they would have rolled her by now, either formally or informally,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “She’s the default because no one else wants the job.”

The power vacuum means May has almost no leverage as she tries to engineer a compromise with U.K. lawmakers who last week took control of the parliamentary agenda to debate alternatives to her Brexit deal, which has already been rejected by Parliament three times.

The House of Commons is scheduled to vote Monday on a variety of Brexit options, with two ideas – staying in the EU customs union and holding a second referendum on Brexit – emerging as the most likely alternatives.

While Justice Secretary David Gauke said Sunday the government would have to “very carefully consider” the wishes of Parliament, he also said May’s EU divorce deal is still the best alternative. Gauke said the prime minister was “reflecting” on the possibility of bringing it back to Parliament for a fourth vote.

If the government can’t bridge the gap by April 12, Britain will crash out of the EU without a plan for future relations, damaging its economy, undermining the country’s unity and diminishing its stature in the world.

“I think it would be very, very bad news indeed,” Gauke told the BBC.

May’s political weakness stretches back to when she took office in July 2016, less than a month after Britain voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of leaving the EU.


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