Re­ject­ing Brexit di­vorce deal would be ‘cat­a­strophic’: May

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS | WORLD - DAN­ICA KIRKA

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.

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.

Michael Roth, a Ger­man deputy for­eign min­is­ter, was quoted Sun­day as telling the Frank­furter All­ge­meine Son­ntagszeitung news­pa­per that if the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment asked for an ex­ten­sion to Bri­tain’s with­drawal date, “we will treat it very re­spon­si­bly.”

But he added that it would pose “quite com­pli­cated ques­tions, such as Bri­tain’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the European elec­tion.”

Bri­tish op­po­si­tion leader Jeremy Cor­byn said Sun­day the Labour party will seek to force a gen­eral elec­tion if Parliament re­jects May’s deal. He sug­gested that he might force a vote of no­con­fi­dence “soon.” If that ef­fort were suc­cess­ful, Labour would likely also re­quest a de­lay in the Brexit process.

“Clearly, if a gen­eral elec­tion takes place and a Labour party gov­ern­ment comes in... there would have to be time for those ne­go­ti­a­tions,’ Cor­byn said.

BEN CAWTHRA / SIPA USA FILES

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May

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