Theresa May re­jects cab­i­net pleas to post­pone Brexit vote

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Matthew Weaver

Theresa May has re­jected a plea from some in her cab­i­net to post­pone the vote on the with­drawal bill but has of­fered con­ces­sions to par­lia­ment on the con­tentious is­sue of the back­stop ar­range­ment for avoid­ing an Ir­ish bor­der.

Asked on BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme whether she was pre­pared to de­lay a vote she is ex­pected to lose, May said: “No. What I am do­ing is lead­ing up to a vote on Tues­day. Yes I am meet­ing col­leagues, I’m lis­ten­ing to col­leagues’ con­cerns. Not about de­lay­ing it, I’m lis­ten­ing to col­leagues’ con­cerns around the back­stop.”

The Times re­ported [£] that some cab­i­net mem­bers, in­clud­ing the de­fence sec­re­tary, Gavin Wil­liamson, were push­ing for a de­lay to the vote over fears the de­feat would be so large it could bring down the gov­ern­ment.

May sig­nalled that she was de­ter­mined to plough on with a vote and sug­gested a “par­lia­men­tary lock” on the Ir­ish back­stop could per­suade more MPs to back it.

She said: “I am talk­ing to col­leagues about how we can look at par­lia­ment hav­ing a role in go­ing into that and com­ing out of that.”

She in­sisted a back­stop ar­range­ment to avoid a hard bor­der in Ire­land was in­evitable in any deal, in­clud­ing “Nor­way” and “Canada” op­tions be­ing pro­posed by some as al­ter­na­tives to her plan.

She con­firmed she was in dis­cus­sions with MPs op­posed to the deal about giv­ing par­lia­ment a say in whether the UK en­tered back­stop ar­range­ments or ex­tended the tran­si­tion pe­riod.

May said: “If we get to that point there will be a choice be­tween go­ing into the back­stop and ex­tend­ing the tran­si­tion pe­riod.”

She added: “There are pros and cons to both sides of that. Peo­ple have a con­cern at the back­stop that we could be in it in­def­i­nitely. But in the back­stop we have no fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions, we have no free move­ment, and we have very light level play­ing field rules with the EU. In the im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod we still have to ne­go­ti­ate the terms, but there will be con­cerns that there would be more money to be paid, for ex­am­ple.

“The ob­vi­ous, in terms of the role of the UK, is for it to be par­lia­ment that makes these de­ci­sions.”

Asked if she had a plan B if her deal was voted down on Tues­day, May said: “That ques­tion is not for me, that ques­tion is for those who want to op­pose this deal. The op­tions are there: there’s a deal, no deal, or no Brexit.”

She added: “It is clear that there are those in the House of Com­mons who want to frustrate Brexit and over­turn the vote of the Bri­tish peo­ple, and that’s not right.

“The risk is that we end up with no Brexit at all. I’m clear that should not hap­pen. We have a good deal for leav­ing the Eu­ro­pean Union.”

May re­peated her op­po­si­tion to a “peo­ple’s vote” on her deal. “I don’t think there should be an­other ref­er­en­dum. We gave peo­ple the choice in the ref­er­en­dum as to whether to leave the Eu­ro­pean Union or not and they gave us a very clear mes­sage.”

She said those back­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum wanted the pub­lic to give a dif­fer­ent mes­sage. “There are many peo­ple who are talk­ing about a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum – it isn’t any­thing to do with this deal, it is ac­tu­ally about try­ing to frustrate Brexit. This is a point in time when every­body should be think­ing of the na­tional in­ter­est. And the na­tional in­ter­est is mak­ing sure that we de­liver on that vote.”

Call­ing for unity over the deal, she

said: “Now is the time for this coun­try to come back to­gether again. Let’s not cre­ate more divi­sion by go­ing back for an­other ref­er­en­dum.”

Theresa May sig­nalled she was de­ter­mined to plough on with a vote she is ex­pected to lose. Pho­to­graph: Xin­hua/Bar­croft Im­ages

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