The House of Commons in Britain on Jan. 15 turned down Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for the country's departure from the European Union (EU), or Brexit. The plan garnered only 202 votes while 432 lawmakers rejected it, delivering a historic defeat to the May administration.
The denial came as 118 members of the ruling Conservative Party, nearly 40 percent of the party's lawmakers in the lower house, revolted against the prime minister.
May has announced her plan to devise an alternative to the rejected proposal by Jan. 21. But coming up with a viable option would be an extremely difficult feat to achieve with so many ruling and opposition members against the initiative.
Within the ruling party, those spearheading the Brexit drive were against the May deal because it contained a possibility for the United Kingdom to remain in EU's customs union for a long period of time over the border issue with Northern Ireland. This stance shows their views that Britain is not going to be dependent on the EU and the prime minister was not able to persuade those lawmakers to support her plan.
Meanwhile, opposition Labour Party lawmakers, despite their internal division over Brexit, banded together to confront May and most of them voted down her proposal. Following the vote, Labour legislators also submitted a no-confidence motion against the May Cabinet. These developments in parliament were an expression of bare partisan politics.
Uncertainty over Britain's departure from the EU is deepening as the deadline of March 29 draws closer. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement that "The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening's vote." A Brexit without an agreement is the worst-case scenario. Such an outcome would throw the economies into major confusion with the re-emergence of customs and associated paperwork overnight between the U.K. and the EU.
May must come up with a solution to avert this crisis. She reportedly intends to discuss draft alternatives not only with ruling Conservative lawmakers but also with Labour Party politicians before she reaches out to the European Union.
The EU side is not going to accept a new proposal easily, and the ruling and opposition camps in Britain are at loggerheads over the issue, but a move toward a compromise is necessary to find a way out from the current impasse.
One option for the premier is to offer a less radical departure plan to Labour Party lawmakers hoping to remain in the union and seek their cooperation. An arrangement like Norway, a non-EU member participating in the union's single market, is one possibility in this regard.
A number of options in regard to Brexit are now being discussed -- including a departure without an agreement, an extension of the departure date, unilateral abandonment of the plan and the holding of a second national referendum on the issue.
Britain, the fifth-largest economy in the world, must not continue to stray further. The current situation is causing growing concern in Japan, which has almost 1,000 companies operating in the U.K.
Time is almost up. Prime Minister May must make efforts to form a majority supporting her beyond party lines.