UK Par­lia­ment de­liv­ers re­buke to gov­ern­ment over Brexit

The Myanmar Times - - World -

BRI­TAIN’S Par­lia­ment dealt Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment two bruis­ing de­feats Tues­day, and that was be­fore law­mak­ers be­gan an epic de­bate that will de­cide the fate of May’s Euro­pean Union di­vorce deal and her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

Open­ing five days of de­bate on the Brexit agree­ment, May said that since the Bri­tish peo­ple voted in 2016 to leave the EU, it was the “duty of this Par­lia­ment to de­liver on the re­sult” of the ref­er­en­dum.

De­spite her en­treaties, the gov­ern­ment ap­peared to be on a col­li­sion course with an in­creas­ingly as­sertive Par­lia­ment.

Min­utes be­fore May rose to speak, law­mak­ers de­liv­ered a his­toric re­buke, find­ing her Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment in con­tempt of Par­lia­ment for re­fus­ing to pub­lish the ad­vice it had re­ceived from the coun­try’s top law of­fi­cer about the Brexit deal.

The rep­ri­mand, while largely sym­bolic, marks the first time a Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has been found in con­tempt of Par­lia­ment.

The 311-293 vote demon­strated the fragility of May’s gov­ern­ment, which does not have a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment.

Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer called the con­tempt find­ing “a badge of shame.”

The gov­ern­ment said that in light of the vote it would pub­lish the ad­vice from At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox.

He and other min­is­ters also could face rep­ri­mands or sus­pen­sion from Par­lia­ment.

The main thrust of Cox’s ad­vice is al­ready known — the gov­ern­ment re­leased a 43-page doc­u­ment about it Mon­day in a bid to fend off the con­tempt mo­tion.

In another sign of the gov­ern­ment’s weak­ness, law­mak­ers also passed an amend­ment giv­ing Par­lia­ment more say over the gov­ern­ment’s next steps if the as­sem­bly re­jects the di­vorce deal in a vote set for Dec. 11.

Many law­mak­ers saw the gov­ern­ment’s de­feats as de­vel­op­ments of huge sig­nif­i­cance — a tip­ping point in the EU saga.

“This feels like the fall of the ‘an­cien regime,’” Ste­wart M. McDon­ald of the Scot­tish Na­tional Party said, us­ing the French term once ap­plied to the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in pre-Rev­o­lu­tion France.

The deal, en­dorsed last month by the 27 other EU lead­ers, lays out the terms of Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the bloc on March 29 and sets the frame­work for fu­ture re­la­tions with the EU.

Re­ject­ing it would leave the UK.fac­ing the prospect of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit, but May’s chances of win­ning ma­jor­ity back­ing for the deal ap­pear slim.

Politi­cians on both sides of Bri­tain’s EU mem­ber­ship de­bate op­pose the agree­ment — proBrexit leg­is­la­tors be­cause it keeps Bri­tain bound closely to the EU, and pro-EU politi­cians be­cause it erects bar­ri­ers be­tween the UK and its big­gest trad­ing part­ner.

“The num­bers in the Houses of Par­lia­ment look pretty for­mi­da­ble for Theresa May,” said Alan Wa­ger, a re­search as­so­ci­ate at the UK at the Chang­ing Europe think tank.

“Over 100 Con­ser­va­tive MPs have said they are not go­ing to back the deal, the Labour Party have said they are not go­ing to back the deal.So it looks like the deal won’t pass next week.”

May ac­knowl­edged the pro­posed deal her gov­ern­ment ne­go­ti­ated and ap­proved was not per­fect, but called it “an hon­or­able com­pro­mise.”

“We should not let the search for the per­fect Brexit pre­vent a good Brexit,” she said.

Photo: As­so­ci­ated Press

Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May speaks in par­lia­ment at the start of a five-day de­bate on the Brexit Euro­pean Union With­drawal Agree­ment on Tues­day.

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