May: Brexit at risk if EU deal voted down

The Northern Advocate - - World -

Theresa May en­ters one of the most tu­mul­tuous weeks of her tur­bu­lent lead­er­ship as Par­lia­ment pre­pares to de­cide the fate of her Brexit deal, and pos­si­bly her ten­ure as Prime Min­is­ter.

With her agree­ment fac­ing al­most cer­tain de­feat in a House of Com­mons vote to­mor­row, May will make an 11th-hour ap­peal with a warn­ing that there’s now more chance of mem­bers of Par­lia­ment block­ing Brexit than of Bri­tain leav­ing the Euro­pean Union with­out a deal.

“What if we found our­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where Par­lia­ment tried to take the UK out of the EU in op­po­si­tion to a re­main vote? Peo­ple’s faith in the demo­cratic process and their politi­cians would suf­fer cat­a­strophic harm,” May was to say to­day.

“We all have a duty to im­ple­ment the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum.”

May’s warn­ing comes af­ter the

Sun­day Times re­ported that some MPs are plan­ning to seize con­trol of the leg­isla­tive agenda from the Gov­ern­ment in an act that would al­low Par­lia­ment to ex­tend the March 29 Brexit dead­line or even over­turn the de­ci­sion to leave the EU. A se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial de­scribed the plan as ex­tremely con­cern­ing, since if it suc­ceeds MPs would gain con­trol over not just Brexit leg­is­la­tion but all leg­is­la­tion.

May has 24 hours to save a deal with the EU that’s taken al­most two years to ne­go­ti­ate, but the task looks vir­tu­ally hope­less. The Prime Min­is­ter ap­pears no closer to get­ting the back­ing she needs than she was in De­cem­ber, when the vote was dra­mat­i­cally pulled be­fore it could be re­jected. The ques­tion now is what she should do next.

A de­feat would leave Bri­tain on course to leave the EU with no new trad­ing ar­range­ments in place. Ac­cord­ing to Bank of Eng­land anal­y­sis, such a chaotic split could ham­mer the pound and home prices, and plunge Bri­tain into a re­ces­sion.

Brexit-back­ers ar­gue that May should go back to the EU and rene­go­ti­ate the most con­tentious parts of the deal be­fore putting a re­vised agree­ment to a vote, though Brus­sels has in­di­cated there’s lit­tle room for com­pro­mise. Se­nior min­is­ters are also said to be urg­ing May to seek a joint plan with the Op­po­si­tion Labour Party, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a sig­nif­i­cantly softer Brexit.

Labour wants to top­ple the gov­ern­ment by forc­ing a gen­eral elec­tion, and leader Jeremy Cor­byn in­di­cated his party could bring a no-con­fi­dence bal­lot within days if May loses the vote on her Brexit deal. His chance of vic­tory is slim, and fail­ure would put him un­der pres­sure to back the grow­ing cross-party calls for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. That, in turn, risks a back­lash from the many Labour sup­port­ers who voted to leave the EU.

The EU is wait­ing to see the out­come of to­mor­row’s vote — and the mar­gin of the ex­pected de­feat — be­fore con­sid­er­ing its re­sponse, of­fi­cials said, with some pre­dict­ing that May will have to de­lay Brexit. A mar­gin of de­feat ex­ceed­ing about 60 MPs would prob­a­bly mean the deal is close to death and ne­go­ti­a­tions are in un­charted wa­ters, EU of­fi­cials said. A nar­rower de­feat and the bloc may look at fresh ways of mak­ing the deal palat­able to get it across the line.

The EU was ex­pected to pub­lish a let­ter to­day in which the bloc will re­it­er­ate that the so-called Ir­ish back­stop ar­range­ment, if it is trig­gered, will only be tem­po­rary. But the con­tents are un­likely to ap­pease Brex­i­teers who fear Bri­tain will end up be­ing tied to EU trade rules in­def­i­nitely.

Theresa May

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