May warns it would be cat­a­strophic to halt Brexit


LON­DON (Reuters) – British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May warned law­mak­ers on Sun­day that fail­ing to de­liver Brexit would be cat­a­strophic for democ­racy, in a plea for sup­port two days be­fore par­lia­ment is ex­pected to re­ject her deal with Brus­sels.

With the clock tick­ing down to its March 29 exit from the Euro­pean Union and par­lia­ment dead­locked, Bri­tain faces a hugely un­cer­tain path that could lead to a dis­or­derly exit or even re­main­ing in the bloc.

May, who postponed a vote in par­lia­ment on her deal in De­cem­ber after ad­mit­ting she was set to lose it, said law­mak­ers must not let down the peo­ple who backed Brexit in a June 2016 ref­er­en­dum.

“Do­ing so would be a cat­a­strophic and un­for­giv­able breach of trust in our democ­racy,” she wrote in 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.”

May has so far re­fused to re­treat from her un­pop­u­lar deal, which en­vis­ages close trad­ing ties with the EU, but with­out any say on pol­icy as Bri­tain has now. The vexed Brexit is­sue rep­re­sents Bri­tain’s big­gest shift in for­eign and trade pol­icy in more than 40 years.

May’s deal has come un­der fire from all sides – with op­po­nents of the EU seek­ing a cleaner break and many pro-Euro­peans press­ing for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. May is ex­pected to suf­fer a big de­feat when par­lia­ment votes on Tues­day.

Brexit min­is­ter Stephen Bar­clay told BBC TV that per­suad­ing enough law­mak­ers to sup­port the deal would be “chal­leng­ing” but that even if it was re­jected, he sus­pected par­lia­ment would ul­ti­mately sup­port some­thing “along the lines of this deal.”

Op­po­si­tion Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn said leav­ing the EU with­out a deal would be cat­a­strophic and his party would do ev­ery­thing it could to pre­vent that out­come.

How­ever, Cor­byn’s pri­or­ity is to force a na­tional elec­tion, say­ing that he would pro­pose a vote of con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment “soon” if May loses on Tues­day.

The Ob­server news­pa­per re­ported that mil­i­tary plan­ners had been sent into sev­eral gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to help with prepa­ra­tions for a no-deal Brexit.

After a week in which par­lia­ment forced the gov­ern­ment to prom­ise to come back with a “plan B” within days if May’s deal is re­jected, Bar­clay said the risk of par­lia­ment act­ing in a way that frus­trates Brexit had in­creased.

The Sun­day Times re­ported that rebel law­mak­ers were plan­ning to wrest con­trol of the leg­isla­tive agenda away from May next week with a view to sus­pend­ing or de­lay­ing Brexit, cit­ing a se­nior gov­ern­ment source.

Vince Ca­ble, the leader of the pro-EU Lib­eral Democrats, said par­lia­ment would act to pre­vent a no-deal Brexit, and could ul­ti­mately seek to pre­vent Brexit al­to­gether.

“I think par­lia­ment will take con­trol of this process, will in­sist that we pur­sue the op­tion of no Brexit,” he told BBC TV.

Ca­ble said this could be done by re­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 50, the mech­a­nism which trig­gered the exit process, or by hold­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

For­mer Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter John Ma­jor wrote in the Sun­day Times that the gov­ern­ment it­self should re­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 and ask par­lia­ment to con­sult on the op­tions be­fore call­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum.

Asked about the prospect of an­other ref­er­en­dum, Cor­byn told BBC TV: “My own view is that I would rather get a ne­go­ti­ated deal now, if we can, to stop the dan­ger of a no-deal exit from the EU on the 29th of March, which would be cat­a­strophic for in­dus­try, cat­a­strophic for trade.”

Cor­byn said that if he forced a na­tional elec­tion and his party won, Brexit may have to be de­layed while they ne­go­ti­ated a new deal with the EU.

“An elec­tion would take place [around] Fe­bru­ary-March time; clearly there is only a few weeks’ [time] then be­tween that and the leave date – there would have to be a time for those ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he added.

(Henry Ni­cholls/Reuters)

ANTI-MAY pro­test­ers demon­strate in an anti-Brexit march in cen­tral Lon­don on Satur­day.

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