May warns Brexit deal re­jec­tion would be ‘cat­a­strophic’

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May warned Sun­day that law­mak­ers risk un­der­min­ing the pub­lic’s faith in democ­racy if they re­ject her divorce deal with the Euro­pean Union in a vote set for Tues­day.

May said some mem­bers of Par­lia­ment were play­ing po­lit­i­cal games with the Brexit de­bate. Law­mak­ers, she said, should re­spect the re­sults of the 2016 ref­er­en­dum in which 52 per cent of vot­ers backed leav­ing the EU.

Fail­ing to do so “would be a cat­a­strophic and un­for­giv­able breach of trust in our democ­racy,’’ she wrote in a com­men­tary pub­lished by the Sun­day Ex­press. “So my mes­sage to Par­lia­ment this week­end is sim­ple: it is time to for­get the games and do what is right for our coun­try.’’

The gov­ern­ment also tried to pres­sure re­sis­tant law­mak­ers by say­ing their re­fusal to fall in line could re­sult in Bri­tain re­main­ing a mem­ber of the EU. Brexit Sec­re­tary Steve Bar­clay warned Sun­day of the grow­ing risk that Par­lia­ment could block Brexit al­to­gether.

The prime min­is­ter’s of­fice also said it was “ex­tremely con­cerned’’ about re­ports that some mem­bers of Par­lia­ment would try to seize con­trol of Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions if the agree­ment May’s gov­ern­ment reached with the EU is de­feated.

The Sun­day Times news­pa­per re­ported that se­nior law­mak­ers in­tend to try to change the rules of the House of Com­mons so they can wrest con­trol of the leg­isla­tive agenda from the gov­ern­ment.

The prime min­is­ter faces wide­spread op­po­si­tion to the ex­ist­ing agree­ment, pri­mar­ily be­cause of lan­guage de­signed to pre­vent the rein­tro­duc­tion of phys­i­cal bor­der con­trols be­tween North­ern Ire­land, which is part of the U.K., and the Repub­lic of Ire­land, a mem­ber of the EU.

Law­mak­ers on all sides of the Brexit de­bate fear the so-called North­ern Ire­land back­stop could leave Bri­tain tied to the EU in­def­i­nitely.

May postponed a vote on the deal in mid-De­cem­ber when a re­sound­ing de­feat was clear. She now is urg­ing Par­lia­ment to sup­port it so Bri­tain doesn’t leave the EU on March 29 with­out a deal, which would threaten trade, jobs and eco­nomic growth.

While a ma­jor­ity of the 650seat House of Com­mons ap­pears to op­pose leav­ing the EU with no deal, there is no agree­ment on what al­ter­na­tive to pur­sue.

Straw polls show more than 200 law­mak­ers back May’s deal, while about 100 sup­port a nodeal Brexit and other fac­tions ad­vo­cate a “soft Brexit’’ that keeps Bri­tain close to the EU or a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

The BBC es­ti­mates that May’s deal is likely to be sup­ported by about 240 law­mak­ers, far short of the num­ber needed for pas­sage.

As ev­i­dence for the claim that law­mak­ers might block Brexit, Bar­clay cited a par­lia­men­tary vote last week that will push the gov­ern­ment to come up with a Plan B within three work­ing days if May’s deal fails. That’s much sooner than would have oth­er­wise been the case.

“Uncer­tainty in terms of what will hap­pen in the House has in­creased,’’ Bar­clay told the BBC. “So those on the Brex­i­teer side seek­ing ide­o­log­i­cal pu­rity with a deal are risk­ing Brexit, be­cause there is a grow­ing risk that events could un­fold in ways that (mean) they are leav­ing the door ajar to ways that in­crease the risk to Brexit.’’

At the very least, there is a grow­ing chance Par­lia­ment may seek to post­pone Bri­tain’s de­par­ture date while politi­cians work on a new plan.

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