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May looks for a way out of Brexit maelstrom as EU says no-deal exit looms

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European officials said on Tuesday the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal in 10 days time was growing as British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned ministers to try to find a Brexit breakthrough.

[LONDON] European officials said on Tuesday the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal in 10 days time was growing as British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned ministers to try to find a Brexit breakthrough.

Mrs May's proposed withdrawal agreement has been defeated three times by the lower house of the British parliament, which failed on Monday to find a majority of its own for any alternatives.

She is expected to try to put her deal to a fourth vote this week.

The deadlock has already delayed Brexit for at least two weeks beyond the planned departure date to 2200 GMT on April 12.

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"Over the last days a no-deal scenario has become more likely, but we can still hope to avoid it," EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in Brussels.

Mrs May chaired several hours of Cabinet meetings in Downing Street in a bid to find a way out of the crisis.

But nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in a shock referendum result, it is still unclear how, when or if it will ever leave the club it first joined in 1973.

BMr arnier said Mrs May's deal was the only way to ensure an orderly EU exit for the world's fifth largest economy. If the deal was rejected, he said, then London would have to choose between a no-deal Brexit and a long delay.

European Central Bank policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau warned that markets needed to price in the growing risk of a no-deal.

The cacophony of warnings over a disorderly Brexit ratchet up the pressure on British lawmakers ahead of a possible fourth vote on Mrs May's deal and as some try to grab control of parliament to prevent a no-deal.

If Mrs May cannot get her deal ratified by parliament then she has a choice between leaving without a deal, trying to trigger an election, or asking the EU for a long delay to negotiate a Brexit agreement with a much closer relationship with the bloc.

Mrs May is under pressure from at least half of her Conservative Party to leave the EU without a deal, though some lawmakers and ministers are also telling her that she must keep the United Kingdom firmly within the bloc's economic orbit.

Mrs May will set out next steps ahead of an emergency EU summit on April 10, her spokesman said. Mrs May is opposed to another referendum, he said.

"I hope that we can still find a solution. The British parliament has said itself that it doesn't want a disorderly Brexit," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

The defeat of Mrs May's deal after pledging to quit if it was passed has left the weakest British leader in a generation facing a spiralling crisis.

The British electorate, its two major parties and Mrs May's Cabinet are all divided over Brexit and Mrs May risks ripping her Conservative Party apart if she tilts towards a closer post-Brexit relationship with the EU or leaving without a deal.

REUTERS