Emo­tions high as May tries to save ‘dead’ deal

Oman Daily Observer - - ANALYSIS - BILL SMITH

Af­ter sur­viv­ing the loss of her par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity last year, Prime Minister Theresa May faces per­haps her most de­ci­sive test on Tues­day when law­mak­ers de­cide whether to ac­cept or re­ject her deal with Brus­sels on Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the EU. May has clung to power since June 2017, when only 42 per cent of vot­ers backed her Con­ser­va­tive Party. The re­sults were a stun­ning blow to her Brexit plans and lead­er­ship, forc­ing her to run a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment propped up by 10 law­mak­ers from North­ern Ire­land’s Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP).

The prime minister ap­pears un­likely to win much more than 42 per cent of votes in parliament when law­mak­ers in the Com­mons vote on her deal. May has in­sisted that the choice on of­fer is her deal or no deal, but pro-eu law­mak­ers re­ject that “false di­chotomy” and want parliament to con­sider other op­tions.

Eu­roscep­tic Con­ser­va­tives, on the other hand, say that May has ne­go­ti­ated a “Brexit in name only.” She in­sists the deal “ful­fils the wishes of the Bri­tish peo­ple” af­ter a 52-per cent ma­jor­ity voted to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit ref­er­en­dum.

But many pro-eu and pro-brexit law­mak­ers among the 315 Con­ser­va­tives in the 650-seat house re­ject that ar­gu­ment.

The DUP op­poses the deal on the grounds of a tem­po­rary back­stop mea­sure to guar­an­tee an open Ir­ish bor­der af­ter Brexit. The back­stop could place North­ern Ire­land un­der slightly dif­fer­ent trading ar­range­ments from the rest of the United King­dom.

What hap­pens if, as ex­pected, parliament re­jects May’s deal, could de­pend on “how badly, and in what way, she loses,” said John Cur­tice, a political sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Strath­clyde.

A nar­row de­feat of 20 votes or less “would al­most be a moral vic­tory” that could al­low her to tweak the deal — per­haps on the key is­sue of the back­stop — be­fore go­ing back to parliament, Cur­tice said.

The re­sult will de­pend on whether there are “more Labour sup­port­ers of the gov­ern­ment than there are Con­ser­va­tive op­po­nents of the gov­ern­ment,” Con­ser­va­tive right-winger Ja­cob Rees-mogg, who leads a group of sev­eral dozen eu­roscep­tic law­mak­ers, told the political news web­site Con­ser­va­tive Home.

Labour’s 257 members of parliament will op­pose May’s deal, Leftwing leader Jeremy Cor­byn said, and only a few Labour rebels are ex­pected to back May.

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