May faces di­vided party at an­nual con­fer­ence

Toyota joins other car­mak­ers with no-deal warn­ing; min­is­ters con­fi­dent Brexit deal can be struck; some Con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers say PM’S Brexit plan is dead

The Gulf Today - - WORLD -

LON­DON: Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive Party be­gan gather­ing for its an­nual con­fer­ence on Satur­day, bit­terly di­vided over her plans to leave the Euro­pean Union which threat­ens to de­rail any deal and put her own job in doubt.

Just six months be­fore Bri­tain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, May has said talks to clinch a di­vorce deal are at an im­passe.

She has said her “Che­quers” pro­pos­als are the only vi­able op­tion, but EU lead­ers have said parts of them are un­ac­cept­able and many Con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers have threat­ened to vote down a deal based on May’s blue­print.

The un­cer­tainty has led to busi­ness con­cerns that there will be no deal, po­ten­tially lead­ing to tar­iffs and bor­der de­lays.

Ja­panese car­maker Toyota on Satur­day warned that leav­ing with­out an agree­ment would hit its pro­duc­tion and jobs would ul­ti­mately be at risk.

“Of course we want a deal,” Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Greg Clark told BBC ra­dio, say­ing May and her ne­go­ti­at­ing team were de­ter­mined to se­cure a deal and there were grounds for op­ti­mism.

“That’s why the next few weeks are go­ing to be im­por­tant to go through is­sue by is­sue what’s be­ing pro­posed to ad­dress whether there are any resid­ual con­cerns that the ne­go­tia­tors have and with a cool head and recog­nis­ing the com­mon in­ter­est in this, re­solve them one by one.”

A sum­mit of EU lead­ers last week ended in a blunt dis­missal of May’s pro­pos­als, which they said would fail to re­solve ar­gu­ments over the land bor­der of North­ern Ire­land, in the UK, with the Ir­ish Repub­lic, in the EU, one of the main stick­ing points to a deal.

In an in­ter­view with the

Sun news­pa­per, Bri­tain’s Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab said the Ir­ish is­sue was be­ing used by some in the EU Com­mis­sion “for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses”, but said he was open to sug­ges­tions from the bloc. “I think they want a deal,” he said. “We aren’t pre­tend­ing there aren’t al­ter­na­tive pro­pos­als that we would look at. But we need cred­i­ble re­sponses for the pro­pos­als we have set out or cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tives, and we haven’t seen them yet.”

As Con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers and party mem­bers be­gan ar­riv­ing in Birm­ing­ham, cen­tral Eng­land, for what is ex­pected to be a frac­tious party con­fer­ence which starts on Sun­day, many have said the Che­quers plans are dead and should be torn up.

Lead­ing Brexit hardliner and for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son, who quit over the is­sue, called on Fri­day for a free trade agree­ment with the bloc, say­ing the cur­rent pro­pos­als would leave Bri­tain in “en­forced vas­salage” to the EU.

John­son, the book­mak­ers’ favourite to suc­ceed May, de­clined to an­swer di­rectly whether he would rule out a lead­er­ship chal­lenge.

While May and gov­ern­ment min­is­ters Con­tinue to Ex­press CON­FI­DENCE that A inal Brexit DEAL CAN BE AGREED, they have also in­sisted no-deal would be bet­ter than a bad deal.

How­ever, Toyota be­came the Lat­est High-pro­file Busi­ness to warn that leav­ing the world’s big­gest trad­ing bloc with­out any trad­ing agree­ment could add costs and crip­ple out­put at plants which rely on the just-in-time de­liv­ery of tens of thou­sands of com­po­nents.

“If we crash out of the EU at the end of March the sup­ply chain will be im­pacted and we will see pro­duc­tion stops in our fac­tory,” said Marvin Cooke, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Toyota’s Bur­nas­ton plant, which pro­duced 144,000 ve­hi­cles last year.

Ear­lier this week other car­mak­ers in Bri­tain in­clud­ing BMW, Mclaren and Honda said they had trig­gered some con­tin­gency plans, such as cer­ti­fy­ing models in the EU, re­draw­ing pro­duc­tion sched­ules and stock­pil­ing parts.

Jaguar Land Rover, Bri­tain’s big­gest car­maker, has warned it does not know whether its plants will be able to op­er­ate in six months’ time.

“The ad­di­tional bur­den of im­port and ex­port cost would add per­ma­nent costs to our busi­ness,” Toyota’s Cooke said.

Agence France-presse

Theresa May ar­rives with her hus­band Philip May (right) at the ho­tel on the eve of the open­ing of the 2018 Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence in Birm­ing­ham on Satur­day.

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