May warns of ‘catastrophic’ impact
U.K. Parliament to vote Tuesday amid divide on Brexit deal with EU
LONDON— 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 650-seat House of Commons appears to oppose leaving the EU with no deal, there is no agreement on what alternative to pursue.
The BBC estimates that May’s deal is likely to be supported by about 240 lawmakers, far short of the number needed for passage.