May los­ing ma­jor ground in Brexit fight

The New Paper - - NEWS -

Bri­tish PM suf­fers set­backs as Brexit de­bate opens in par­lia­ment

LON­DON Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May suf­fered em­bar­rass­ing de­feats on Tues­day at the start of five days of de­bate over her plans to leave the Euro­pean Union that could de­ter­mine the fu­ture of Brexit and the fate of her govern­ment.

Mrs May wants to se­cure par­lia­ment’s ap­proval for her deal to keep close ties with the EU af­ter leav­ing in March, but op­po­si­tion is fierce, with Brexit sup­port­ers and op­po­nents alike want­ing to thwart or de­rail her plan.

On the first day of de­bate, be­fore the main vote on Dec 11, her govern­ment was found in con­tempt of par­lia­ment and then a group of her own Con­ser­va­tive Party law­mak­ers won a chal­lenge to hand more power to the House of Com­mons if her deal is voted down.

That could re­duce the like­li­hood of Bri­tain leav­ing the EU with­out any deal, prompt­ing ster­ling to re­cover some of its losses af­ter the vote on con­tempt drove it down to lev­els not seen since June last year.

The de­bates and fi­nal vote on Dec 11 will de­ter­mine how, and pos­si­bly even if, Bri­tain leaves the EU as planned on March 29, in the coun­try’s big­gest shift in for­eign and trade pol­icy in more than 40 years.

Mrs May’s plans are vul­ner­a­ble to more change at the end of the de­bate, and ad­vice from a se­nior EU le­gal aide that Bri­tain had the right to with­draw its Brexit no­tice opened yet an­other front in her bat­tle to win the ap­proval of par­lia­ment.

Mrs May told par­lia­ment: “We need to de­liver a Brexit that re­spects the de­ci­sion of the Bri­tish peo­ple.

“This ar­gu­ment has gone on long enough. It is cor­ro­sive to our pol­i­tics and life de­pends on com­pro­mise.”

If law­mak­ers do not back her deal, Mrs May says, they could open the door ei­ther to Bri­tain falling out of the EU with­out mea­sures to soften the tran­si­tion or to the pos­si­bil­ity that Brexit does not hap­pen.

GET A BET­TER DEAL

The op­po­si­tion Labour Party said Mrs May needed to get a bet­ter deal or step aside and let them gov­ern.

“We still don’t know what our long-term re­la­tion­ship with Europe would look like and that’s why so many MPs (mem­bers of par­lia­ment) across par­lia­ment are not will­ing to vote for this blind­fold Brexit and take a leap in the dark about Bri­tain’s fu­ture,” Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn told par­lia­ment.

Anx­ious to pre­vent a “nodeal” Brexit, a group of mainly pro-EU law­mak­ers from the Con­ser­va­tive Party won a vote to make sure par­lia­ment gets more power to dic­tate any next steps the govern­ment takes if her exit plan fails.

For them, there may be an­other way out. The for­mal ad­vice from a Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice ad­vo­cate gen­eral – not bind­ing but usu­ally heeded by the court – sug­gested to some law­mak­ers that re­vok­ing the “Ar­ti­cle 50” divorce no­tice was an op­tion.

“It’s a false choice to say it’s the PM’s deal or chaos,”said Con­ser­va­tive law­maker Sam Gy­imah, who quit as a min­is­ter on Fri­day over Mrs May’s deal.

“We should look at all the op­tions and not be boxed in by our own red lines.”

But Mrs May’s spokesman told re­porters: “It does noth­ing in any event to change the clear po­si­tion of the govern­ment that Ar­ti­cle 50 is not go­ing to be re­voked.”

– REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May faces fierce op­po­si­tion to her Brexit deal.

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