U.K. leader pres­sured as Brexit crunch looms

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Bri­tish Prime Min- LON­DON — is­ter Theresa May is caught in a vise of pres­sure from both sides of the Brexit de­bate as she tries to get a key plank in the gov­ern­ment’s plans for leav­ing the EU through Par­lia­ment.

The E uro­pean Union (With­drawal) Bill re­turns this week to the House of Com­mons, where it will face a flurry of amend­ments from law­mak­ers.

The bill is de­signed to pre­vent a le­gal vac­uum by con­vert­ing some 12,000 EU laws into Bri­tish statute on the day the U.K. leaves the bloc in 2019. Leg­is­la­tors are sched­uled to hold sev­eral days of de­bate and votes start­ing Tues­day.

But many law­mak­ers claim the bill gives the gov­ern­ment too much power to amend leg­is­la­tion with­out par­lia- men­tary scru­tiny. They will try to pass amend­ments to wa­ter down those pow­ers.

And op­po­nents of Brexit — both from the op­po­si­tion and from May’s Con­ser­va­tive Party — will seek to give Par­lia­ment a bind­ing vote on the fi­nal di­vorce deal be­tween Bri­tain and the EU.

Mean­while, sup­port­ers of Brexit are pres­sur­ing May not to give ground by com­pro­mis­ing with the EU or with anti-Brexit law­mak­ers.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son and En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Michael Gove, lead- ing “euro-skep­tics” in May’s Cabi­net, warned the prime min­is­ter in a note to stand firm in the am­bi­tion of mak- ing Bri­tain “a fully in­de­pen- dent self-gov­ern­ing coun­try by the time of the next elec­tion” in 2022, the Mail on Sun­day news­pa­per re­ported.

The note pub­lished by the news­pa­per ac­cused some min­is­ters of not pre­par­ing for Brexit with “suf­fi­cient en­ergy.”

May, weak­ened by the Con­ser­va­tives’ poor show­ing in a snap June elec­tion, has lit- tle room to ma­neu­ver. She re­lies on a small North­ern Ire­land party to prop up her mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment and is caught be­tween war­ring fac­tions in her Cabi­net.

She also faces a sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dal in­volvinga grow­ing num­ber of politi­cians and the res­ig­na­tion of two Cabi­net min­is­ters so far this month.

Busi­nesses, mean­while, are clam­or­ing for clar­ity on what the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween Bri­tain and the bloc will be, as econ­o­mists warn that the un­cer­tainty is slow­ing Bri­tain’s econ­omy.

The gov­ern­ment’s ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU have been slowed by a lack of agree­ment on the terms of the U.K.’s with­drawal, in­clud­ing how much Bri­tain must pay to meet its fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments to the bloc.

EU chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier says there must be ma­jor progress in the next two weeks if EU lead­ers are to agree at a De­cem­ber sum­mit to move on to dis­cussing trade and fu­ture re­la­tions.

U.K. Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis said Sun­day that Bri­tain is not about to com­mit to a firm fig­ure for its Brexit bill.

“It’s tak­ing time, and we will take our time to get to the right an­swer” he told Sky News.

Davis de­nied the talks had stalled and said, “There has ac­tu­ally been a huge amount of progress” on what he called “the most com­plex ne­go­ti­a­tion prob­a­bly in his­tory.”

DAVID HART­LEY / TNS

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May speaks at the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence Oct. 4 in Manch­ester, Eng­land. De­bates and vot­ing on the Euro­pean Union (With­drawal) Bill start Tues­day. May faces pres­sure from law­mak­ers on both sides of the Brexit is­sue.

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