Britain’s May says Brexit deal defeat could topple government

Media reports said May is under pressure from her cabinet to delay the vote. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Britain’s May says Brexit deal defeat could topple government

  • May is facing her biggest crisis since coming to power a month after the nation voted by a 52-48 percent margin in June 2016 to leave the world’s largest single market after 46 years

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May warned on Sunday if parliament rejects her Brexit deal, it could leave Britain in the European Union and bring the opposition Labour Party to power.
The embattled leader’s message came with her government fearing a heavy defeat in Tuesday’s parliamentary vote on the draft withdrawal agreement she signed with Brussels last month.
Media reports said May is under pressure from her cabinet to delay the vote and fly to Brussels to secure more concessions ahead of a planned summit with the other 27 EU leaders on Thursday and Friday.
But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC: “The vote is going ahead.”
May said Britain “would truly be in uncharted waters” if the text agreed after nearly two years of tortuous negotiations is voted down less than four months before the March 29 Brexit date.
“It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit,” she told the Mail on Sunday.
“We have a leader of the opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a general election... I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take.”

May is facing her biggest crisis since coming to power a month after the nation voted by a 52-48 percent margin in June 2016 to leave the world’s largest single market after 46 years.
She is under attack from more strident Brexit backers in her party as well as europhiles who want either a second referendum or a pact that maintains stronger EU-UK ties than the one offered by May.
Her comments on Sunday were aimed at tamping down the hard-line Conservative Party revolt led by the likes of her former foreign minister Boris Johnson.
May’s team insists that her vision offers the cleanest break between the UK and EU that Brexit supporters can hope for at this late stage.
But Johnson used a column in the Sun on Sunday to argue that “the best way to get a great deal is to prepare for no deal” by rejecting May’s draft.
Corbyn’s party is hoping that failure in parliament on Tuesday will trigger a broader revolt that leads to early elections and returns Labour to power for the first time since 2010.
“I think time is really running out for her and if you can tell me if she will still be prime minister on Tuesday evening then perhaps I can tell you what we do next,” Labour MP John Trickett told Sky News.
He added that Labour was “ready to form a minority government should that be necessary — and it could happen on Wednesday morning.”
Newspapers have identified more than six current and former ministers in May’s cabinet who are also ready to run for her job should she falter over the coming days.
The febrile political atmosphere was reinforced by rival pro- and anti-Brexit rallies that drew thousands in different parts of London.

Brexit’s outright reversal is still a longshot that would probably require a second Brexit referendum that May has repeatedly ruled out.
EU supporters will be pinning their hopes on a European Court of Justice ruling on Monday on Britain’s right to unilaterally halt Brexit in its tracks.
May faces a tough time convincing EU leaders to offer better divorce terms that could appease the mutinous Northern Irish party that propped up her government for more than a year.
EU President Donald Tusk signalled no concession after speaking to May by phone on Sunday.
“It will be an important week for the fate of #Brexit,” Tusk said on Twitter.
Yet Brussels also wants to see May succeed and avert the economic nightmare that could unfold should Britain break away without any arrangements underpinning future trade.
European officials said they might be able to find a way to offer a token concession in Brussels that May could take back to London.
But they added that such tinkering cannot alter the basis of the withdrawal agreement itself.
The two sides might “work on the (accompanying) protocol or clarify a point that is deemed important so that she can take it back to parliament,” an informed European source told AFP on condition on anonymity.
May would then be expected to submit the touched-up version for a second vote at an unspecified date.


UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

A European flag and a British Union flag hang outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices in London, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

  • May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds
  • May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success”

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was making a last-minute push Monday to win support for her European Union divorce deal, warning opponents that failure to approve it would mean a long — and possibly indefinite — delay to Brexit.
Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. Her aim is to have the deal agreed before EU leaders meet Thursday for a summit in Brussels.
But there was no sign of a breakthrough, and the government faces a deadline of the end of Tuesday to decide whether they have enough votes to pass the deal, so that a vote can be held on Wednesday.
May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success.”
May is likely to ask for a delay to Brexit at the Brussels summit. If a deal is approved, she says she will ask the EU to extend the deadline until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve the necessary legislation. If it isn’t, she will have to seek a longer extension that would mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament — something the government is keen to avoid.
May’s goal is to win over Northern Ireland’s small, power-brokering Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP’s 10 lawmakers prop up May’s Conservative government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop their opposition to the deal.
Still, May faces a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes last week.
Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May’s deal.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union,” he told LBC radio.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday he saw “cautious signs of encouragement” that the deal might make it through Parliament this week.
After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29 — although the power to approve or reject a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British prevarication.
EU leaders say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the extra time.
“We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. “The longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: “We are not against an extension in Belgium, but the problem is — to do what?“
Opposition to May’s deal centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no hard border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party that Britain could not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.
May said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that failure to approve the deal meant “we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever.”
“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about,” she wrote.
But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused to support her deal.
Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, used his column in the Daily Telegraph to argue that the backstop left the UK vulnerable to “an indefinite means of blackmail” by Brussels.