UK PM faces backlash over Brexit compromise

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on October 10, 2018 ahead of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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UK PM faces backlash over Brexit compromise

  • Negotiations in Brussels have stepped up in recent days ahead of a high-stakes EU summit next week
  • Some euroskeptics, notably House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, are said to be considering quitting.

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May will not “trap” Britain in an endless customs union with the European Union after Brexit, her office insisted Friday amid growing unease in her cabinet and party that this might be the price of a divorce deal.
Negotiations in Brussels have stepped up in recent days ahead of a high-stakes EU summit next week, with both sides seeking a breakthrough less than six months before Brexit in March 2019.
May briefed selected members of her cabinet late Thursday on the talks, at which several ministers reportedly expressed deep unease at a plan to avoid frontier checks with EU member Ireland.
Some euroskeptics, notably House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, are said to be considering quitting.
Britain has proposed that it continue to follow EU customs rules after Brexit as a fall-back option to keep open the land border with Ireland, until a wider trade deal is agreed that avoids the need for frontier checks.
May says this will only be temporary, but her spokeswoman was forced to clarify the point after media reports that the final “backstop” arrangement will have no legal end date.
“The prime minister would never agree to a deal which could trap the UK in a backstop permanently,” she said.
The Downing Street spokeswoman repeated that Britain wanted a new trade deal by the end of December 2021 at the latest, although she declined to confirm the backstop would be “time-limited.”
Her careful words only fueled speculation of a compromise with Brussels, although Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab later said the backstop would have to be “finite,” “short” and “time-limited.”
Brussels has insisted that, as an insurance plan, the backstop cannot by its very nature have an end date.
However, euroskeptics in May’s Conservative party are wary of being tied to the bloc indefinitely.
“That won’t wash. The British people voted to take back control over money, laws, borders and trade,” said former Brexit minister Steve Baker, one of a powerful group of euroskeptic Conservative MPs in parliament.


Ninth lawmaker quits Britain’s opposition Labour Party

Updated 22 February 2019
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Ninth lawmaker quits Britain’s opposition Labour Party

  • Corbyn, a supporter of Palestinian rights and critic of the Israeli government, has previously been accused by some of failing to tackle anti-Semitism in the party. He denies the allegation

LONDON: British lawmaker Ian Austin resigned from the opposition Labour Party on Friday, the ninth person to do so this week, saying it was “broken” and had been taken over by the “hard left.”

Austin said he was appalled at the treatment of Jewish lawmakers who had taken a stand against anti-Semitism and that the “the party is tougher on the people complaining about anti-Semitism than it is on the anti-Semites.”

“The Labour Party has been my life, so this has been the hardest decision I have ever had to take, but I have to be honest and the truth is that I have become ashamed of the Labour Party under (leader) Jeremy Corbyn,” he told the Express and Star newspaper.

“I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.”

Corbyn has promised to drive anti-Semitism out of the party.

Austin said he did not currently have any plans to join The Independent Group in parliament, launched by seven of his former Labour colleagues on Monday and since joined by an eighth as well as three former members of the governing Conservatives.

A Labour lawmaker since 2005 and a former government minister, Austin supports Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal and is not in favor of holding a second referendum, putting him at odds with the other Independent Group members.