May: MPs trying to frustrate Brexit
EU judges to rule on the divorce on eve of London’s crucial vote in parliament
British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday that British lawmakers faced a choice ahead of a vote on her Brexit deal: approving her deal or facing an exit with no deal or even the reversal of Brexit.
May said she was speaking to lawmakers about giving parliament a bigger role in whether the Northern Irish backstop arrangement would be triggered, though she gave few details.
May said some in parliament were trying to frustrate Brexit and that she did not think another referendum on Brexit was the right course.
“There are three options: one is to leave the European Union with a deal, ... the other two are that we leave without a deal or that we have no Brexit at all,” May told BBC radio.
“It’s 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.”
May repeatedly sidestepped questions on whether she would delay the Dec 11 vote but did hint at possible concessions on the Northern Irish backstop.
“There are questions about how decisions are taken as to whether we go into the backstop, because that isn’t an automatic,” she said.
“The question is: Do we go into the backstop? Do we extend what I call the implementation period?”
When asked repeatedly what her “Plan B” would be if her deal was rejected, she did not directly answer the questions.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s top court will say on Monday whether Britain can unilaterally halt Brexit, potentially offering a boost to those opposed to leaving the bloc on the eve of a crucial vote in the parliament.
In a statement on Thursday, the Court of Justice in Luxembourg said the justices would deliver a ruling at 9 am on Dec 10 in a case brought by Scottish politicians who argue Britain can simply withdraw its plan to leave in March, without waiting for the approval of the other member states.
Acting with almost unprecedented speed in a case that the court took up only in October, and on which it held a hearing only last week, a legal adviser to the court said on Tuesday that Britain could indeed make a U-turn entirely of its own accord. Such advice is usually but not always followed by the judges.
The legal clarification of Article 50 of the EU treaty, under which May last year triggered a two-year countdown to departure, matters because opponents of Brexit want to hold a second referendum that would give Britons a choice of staying in the EU. According to an advocate general at the ECJ, that choice is entirely theirs to make and does not need EU approval.
That makes the prospect of a new referendum credible, according to supporters of a “people’s vote”. The British electorate voted in 2016 to leave the EU by 52 percent to 48.
EU leaders have long insisted they would welcome Britain changing its mind, but many EU officials and legal experts had assumed that the approval of either all or most of the other 27 members states would be needed to halt Brexit altogether.
It is far from clear whether or how Britain could organize a new referendum.
If May wins her vote on Tuesday, the withdrawal is likely to proceed as agreed with Brussels last month. If she loses, her own position could be in jeopardy, there could be a move for a new election, or possibly to hold a new referendum.