Bri­tish PM tells di­vided party: Don’t play pol­i­tics with my Brexit plan

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

LON­DON (Reuters) - Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive Party be­gan gath­er­ing for its an­nual con­fer­ence yes­ter­day with bit­ter di­vi­sions over her Brexit plans ris­ing to the fore, rais­ing doubts about her own fu­ture.

Bri­tain is due to leave the Euro­pean Union on March 29, 2019, but the terms of the de­par­ture re­main un­clear. May, un­der fire from crit­ics in Brus­sels, op­po­nents at home and some law­mak­ers in her own party, has said talks on a di­vorce deal are at an im­passe.

In an in­ter­view with the Sun­day Times news­pa­per ahead of her party’s con­fer­ence, May took aim at those who have scorned her “Che­quers” Brexit pro­pos­als ac­cus­ing them of “play­ing pol­i­tics” with Bri­tain’s fu­ture and un­der­min­ing the na­tional in­ter­est.

How­ever, in a demon­stra­tion of the chal­lenge she faces, the news­pa­per ran an in­ter­view with for­mer for­eign min­is­ter Boris John­son along­side on its front page in which he openly ques­tioned May’s com­mit­ment to Brexit and called her plans “de­ranged.”

“Un­like the prime min­is­ter I cam­paigned for Brexit,” said John­son, the book­mak­ers’ fa­vorite to suc­ceed May who on Fri­day de­clined to an­swer di­rectly whether he would rule out a lead­er­ship chal­lenge.

“Un­like the prime min­is­ter I fought for this, I be­lieve in it, I think it’s the right thing for our coun­try and I think that what is hap­pen­ing now is, alas, not what peo­ple were promised in 2016.”

May says 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 yes­ter­day 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, one of those who sup­ports May’s plans which seeks free trade of goods with the EU, told BBC ra­dio.

“We need to have a deal. The ev­i­dence from not just Toy­ota and other man­u­fac­tur­ers is we need ab­so­lutely to be able to con­tinue what has been a highly suc­cess­ful set of sup­ply chains.”

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.

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.

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