UK leader fires back at crit­ics over Brexit

Prime min­is­ter says foes’ plans wouldn’t work

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Nation | World - By Sylvia Hui

LON­DON — British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May fought back against crit­ics of her Brexit deal Satur­day, telling op­po­nents from within her party their al­ter­na­tive plans for Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union wouldn’t work.

May is bat­tling to win over rebels in her Con­ser­va­tive Party and and to pre­serve her po­si­tion as prime min­is­ter af­ter a gru­el­ing week in which party mem­bers plot­ted to oust her and two Cabi­net min­is­ters quit within hours of her govern­ment strik­ing the long­sought di­vorce agree­ment with the EU.

In a pub­lic re­la­tions of­fen­sive, May re­vealed in a Daily Mail in­ter­view how her hus­band sup­ported her dur­ing “a pretty heavy cou­ple of days.”

Call­ing her hus­band, Philip, her “rock,” May said that when the Con­ser­va­tive re­volt erupted Wednes­day, the first thing he did was pour her a whisky.

She also laid into po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, say­ing their ideas for re­solv­ing the big­gest stum­bling block in EUU. K. ne­go­ti­a­tions — avoid­ing a hard bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic of Ire­land af­ter Brexit — wouldn’t re­solve the prob­lem.

“Peo­ple say, `If you could only just do some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent, have a Nor­way model or a Canada model, this back­stop is­sue would go away.’ It would not. That is­sue is still go­ing to be there,” May said in the in­ter­view , pub­lished Satur­day.

“Some politi­cians get so em­broiled in the in­tri­ca­cies of their ar­gu­ment they for­get it is not about this the­ory or that the­ory, or does it make me look good,” she added.

While May ap­peared to have sur­vived the week, her headaches are far from over. Disaf­fected “Brex­i­teers” think they have the num­bers re­quired to trig­ger a chal­lenge to her lead­er­ship within days.

They are aim­ing for 48 let­ters of no con­fi­dence, the num­ber needed for a vote un­der Con­ser­va­tive Party rules. So far, more than 20 law­mak­ers have pub­licly said they sub­mit­ted such let­ters.

One of them, Mark Fran­cois, com­plained that May’s draft deal would leave Bri­tain with the worst out­come — “half in and half out” of the EU. He said it would never be ap­proved in Par­lia­ment, where May’s Conservatives do not have a ma­jor­ity.

Like Fran­cois, many proBrexit Conservatives are push­ing for a clean break with the EU and ar­gue that the close trade ties be­tween the U.K. and the EU called for in the deal would leave Bri­tain a vas­sal state.

As it stands, the draft agree­ment sees Bri­tain leav­ing the EU as planned on March 29 but re­main­ing in­side the bloc’s sin­gle mar­ket and bound by its rules un­til the end of De­cem­ber 2020.

It also com­mits the two sides to the con­tentious “back­stop” so­lu­tion, which would keep the U.K. in a cus­toms ar­range­ment with the EU as a guar­an­tee the Ir­ish bor­der re­mained free of cus­toms check­points.

British me­dia re­ported that sev­eral pro-Brexit se­nior Conservatives, in­clud­ing House of Com­mons leader An­drea Lead­som, were try­ing to per­suade May to rene­go­ti­ate the di­vorce deal in a way they find more ac­cept­able.

Lead­som told Sky News Satur­day “there is still more to be done” to get “the best pos­si­ble deal for the U.K.” be­fore the draft with­drawal agree­ment is signed off on Nov. 25 in Brus­sels. She didn’t elab­o­rate.

The deal also re­quires ap­proval from Bri­tain’s Par­lia­ment be­fore the U.K. leaves the bloc.

Tolga Ak­men / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Pro-Euro­pean Union anti-Brexit cam­paign­ers from the Our Fu­ture, Our Choice youth move­ment launch a cam­paign bat­tle bus Satur­day in Lon­don.

May

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