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May holds out promise of new Brexit referendum

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS | Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech on Brexit in London, Britain May 21, 2019.

British Prime Minister Theresa May promised Tuesday to give lawmakers a vote on whether to hold a second Brexit referendum as part of a last-gasp push to get her deal over the line.

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The embattled British leader dangled a series of sweeteners that she hopes can resolve the Brexit crisis three years after the country first voted to leave the European Union after 46 years.

These included a parliamentary vote on whether to put whatever Brexit deal is passed up for a second confirmatory ballot, plus a temporary customs union with the EU.

"I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue," she said of a second Brexit vote.

"The government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum," she said.

"This must take place before the Withdrawal Agreement can be ratified."

The measure is a key demand of the main opposition Labour Party. But it is also bitterly opposed by Brexit-supporting Conservatives whose votes May also needs if she is to get her deal passed.

She said her proposals were this parliament's "last chance" to end a political deadlock that has held up the entire Brexit process and caused huge public anger.

"Today I am making a serious offer to MPs across parliament -- a new Brexit deal," May said in a nationally televised address delivered from the offices of a major accounting firm in London.

"The majority of MPs say they want to deliver the result of the referendum. So I think we need to help them find a way. And I believe there is now one last chance to do that."

May set out 10 incentives in all that will be included in a new Brexit bill that is expected to come up for a vote early next month.

"We are making a new offer to find common ground in parliament," she said.

These include a promise to give MPs a say on whether to remain in a temporary customs union and a commitment "to stay aligned with Northern Ireland" should no permanent trade deal with the EU be agreed by the end of 2020.

That promise is aimed at ensuring the support of her Norther Irish coalition partners after they broke ranks and voted against her Brexit deal, helping defeat it three times in parliament.

(AFP)

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