May to make last-ditch plea over Brexit deal
‘Catastrophe’ if not backed, PM claims
LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May was set yesterday to repeat weekend warnings to MPs poised to reject her EU divorce deal that failing to deliver Brexit would be “catastrophic” for British democracy. On the eve of today’s monumental vote in parliament on her withdrawal agreement — forged from 18 months of gruelling negotiations with European leaders — Ms May is set to address factory workers in Stoke, a Brexit-backing city in central England. The embattled leader, who is widely expected to lose the House of Commons vote by a wide margin, will make a final bid for support by arguing: “We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum. “I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy,” Ms May is expected to say, according to excerpts of her speech released by her office. “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?” she will ask. “People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.” Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29 but, with less than 11 weeks left, has yet to finalise the terms of its departure. Ms May’s deal agrees a 21-month transition period under current terms while the future relationship with the bloc is negotiated, but it has drawn steadfast opposition from both Brexiteers and Remainers. The prime minister has said rejecting it will throw Britain into “uncharted territory” and put the country at risk of crashing out without an agreement, or even no Brexit at all. The opposition Labour Party, which favours remaining in a permanent customs union with the EU, has suggested it will seek a no-confidence vote in the government if MPs throw out the plan. The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that its lawmakers have been told it could be tabled “within hours” of that today, with the confidence vote to be held the following day. If the government lose a no-confidence motion, there will be a period of 14 days in which parties can seek to find an alternative working majority in parliament. If they fail to do so, a general election would be called. “We will table a motion of no confidence in the government at a time of our choosing, but it’s going to be soon, don’t worry about it,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC on Sunday. Mr Corbyn conceded that if the party won power, parliament would likely need to delay Brexit beyond March 29 so it could renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. The prime minister has already previously postponed a House of Commons vote on her plan in December to avoid defeat — and MPs look set to reject it again today. Lawmakers who believe it either leaves Britain too close or too distant from the bloc, fired ominous warning shots this week, voting to force the prime minister to quickly set out an alternative plan for Brexit if she loses the vote. It was her second setback in 24 hours after MPs also voted to deny the government certain taxation powers in a no-deal scenario — in a bid to avoid such an outcome.
Protesters wearing yellow vests wait to participate in an anti-Brexit demonstration march in central London on Saturday.