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UK PM May reaches out to rivals after winning no-confidence vote

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British PM vows to find alternative as she tries to win over opposition lawmakers

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May reached out to her opponents on Wednesday after narrowly surviving a no-confidence vote sparked by the crushing defeat in Parliament of her Brexit deal.

After a tumultuous 24 hours which she admitted voters might find "unsettling", she conceded the divorce terms she had struck with the EU was roundly rejected but vowed to work to find an alternative.

"Now MPs have made clear what they don't want, we must all work constructively together to set out what Parliament does want," Mrs May said in a televised address to the nation.

On Tuesday, MPs dealt the Prime Minister the heaviest drubbing in modern British political history by rejecting the divorce agreement by a stunning 432 votes to 202.

But Mrs May emerged victorious on Wednesday night in a confidence vote triggered by the opposition Labour party, the first for 26 years, winning 325 votes to 306.

She set out a schedule of cross-party talks with the Scottish nationalist, Welsh nationalist and the pro-European Union Liberal Democrat leaders.

"We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House," she earlier told Parliament.

However, opposition leaders set out a list of demands for cooperating, including discussing delaying Brexit beyond March 29 and ruling out the possibility that Britain crashes out without any deal at all.

Mrs May is working on a tightest deadline as Britain prepares to leave the bloc that for half a century defined its economic and political relations with the rest of the world.

Her defeat sparked warnings from European leaders that the prospect of "no deal" had increased, with the potential for huge economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.

Mrs May must return to Parliament on Monday with a Plan B that she and her team intend to negotiate with various MPs through the weekend.

She survived on Wednesday thanks to the support of members of her Conservative Party and its Northern Irish allies in the Democratic Union Party (DUP).

But more than a third of the Conservatives and all 10 DUP MPs voted against her Brexit deal on Tuesday.

Mrs May will thus tread carefully as she tries to win over opposition lawmakers - many of whom want to remain in the EU - while also attempting to appease more hardened Brexit-backing coalition partners.

She stuck to two key principles on Wednesday: Limiting EU migration and pursuing an independent trade policy.

She also hinted at the possibility of delaying Brexit, adding that the EU would allow this "if it was clear there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal".

EU officials have said extending the negotiating period could be possible until the newly elected European Parliament meets in July.

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested the EU might be willing to tweak a few minor points - but only if they did not alter the bloc's existing position on trade and borders.

"We won't, just to solve Britain's domestic political issues, stop defending European interests," he said. - AFP

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