UK cabinet minister floats ‘Plan B’ before key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal

A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday became the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if, as expected, parliament next week rejects her proposal to leave the European Union. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 08 December 2018
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UK cabinet minister floats ‘Plan B’ before key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal

  • May insists her deal, laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months, is the only one on the table
  • Senior officials on both sides of the EU-UK negotiations on May’s deal have voiced skepticism

LONDON: A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday became the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if, as expected, parliament next week rejects her proposal to leave the European Union.
With her own future in the balance, May insists her deal, laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months, is the only one on the table and that the alternatives are a painful ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU or possibly no Brexit at all.
However, members of parliament, including from May’s own Conservative Party, look set to reject her deal, which envisages continued close ties with the EU, in a move that would pitch the world’s fifth-largest economy into even deeper uncertainty.
While agreeing with May that her deal provides the best option for exiting the EU, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions minister, said a Norway-style relationship with the bloc might also offer a way out of the current deadlock.
“If it (May’s plan) doesn’t get through anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway plus, any of these options could come forward,” she told BBC radio on Saturday.
Rudd told The Times newspaper in an interview her own preferred option, if May’s deal failed, was the “Norway Plus” model, adding it “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are.”
Norway is not an EU member but is in the bloc’s single market, which allows for free movement of goods, capital, services and people. ‘Norway plus’ envisages Britain also staying in the EU’s customs union, which Norway is not in.
Senior officials on both sides of the EU-UK negotiations on May’s deal have voiced skepticism to Reuters about the “Norway pivot” idea, saying it seems far removed from British demands for more control over rules and could need lengthy new talks.
Some pro-EU lawmakers have also expressed support for a second referendum on EU membership, or ‘a people’s vote’.

MAY’S LEADERSHIP QUESTIONED
The Times reported on Saturday that plans were being made across party lines to vote against May’s leadership if she loses Tuesday’s vote. The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Conservative lawmaker as saying she might be forced to resign.
Rudd said she believed May should stay on as prime minister even if parliament rejects her Brexit deal. “There is no question of her going,” Rudd told the BBC.
The Times said the main opposition Labour Party was seeking an alliance with rebel Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government, to call a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.
That vote would not be binding but would place enormous pressure on May to resign, it added.
Conservative lawmaker and former leader Iain Duncan Smith was quoted in the Telegraph as saying her leadership could come into question if she lost Tuesday’s vote.
“I believe that if (May’s) response is ‘we’ve lost but we will do this all over again’, it will become a leadership issue,” he was quoted as saying.
The newspaper also said three ministers were considering resigning in opposition to her deal, without citing sources.
If the Brexit deal is rejected, ministers have 21 days to state how they intend to proceed. The government has previously said that if the agreement is rejected, Britain will leave the EU without a deal.
May’s spokesman said on Friday the vote would go ahead next week despite calls from some lawmakers for it to be delayed to avoid a defeat so big that it might bring down the government.


Australia summons Turkish envoy over ‘offensive’ Erdogan comments

Updated 3 min 48 sec ago
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Australia summons Turkish envoy over ‘offensive’ Erdogan comments

SYDNEY: Australia’s prime minister said he would summon Turkey’s ambassador in Canberra on Wednesday to explain “very offensive” comments made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the Christchurch massacre.
Erdogan, while campaigning for local elections, presented the attack as part of an assault on Turkey and Islam and warned anti-Muslim Australians would suffer the same fate as soldiers at Gallipoli, a blood-drenched WWI battle.
“I find it a very offensive comment, of course I do, and I will be calling in the Turkish ambassador today to meet with me to discuss these issues,” Scott Morrison told national broadcaster ABC.
Erdogan had already been sharply rebuked by New Zealand for his comments and for using gruesome video shot by the Christchurch mosque gunman as an election campaign prop.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters protested on Monday that such politicization of the massacre “imperils the future and safety of the New Zealand people and our people abroad, and it’s totally unfair.”
Peters announced on Tuesday that he would be traveling to Turkey this week at Istanbul’s request to attend a special meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Three Turkish nationals were wounded in the rampage that killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday.
The accused gunman, a self-avowed white supremacist from Australia, livestreamed much of the attack and spread a manifesto on social media claiming it was a strike against Muslim “invaders.”
The manifesto references Turkey and the minarets of Istanbul’s famed Hagia Sophia, now a museum, that was once a church before becoming a mosque during the Ottoman empire.
“This is not an isolated event, it is something more organized,” he said during a campaign event on Monday in Canakkale in western Turkey.
“They are testing us with the message they are sending us from New Zealand, 16,500 km (10,250 miles) from here.”
Erdogan did not project the video at the Monday event.
Peters said he had complained directly to visiting Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.