May hangs on to Brexit con­trol

Prime min­is­ter says she’ll keep pur­su­ing EU deal

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Kim Hjelm­gaard

LON­DON – Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May sur­vived an at­tempt by Par­lia­ment to more closely con­trol the na­tion’s exit from the Euro­pean Union as law­mak­ers re­jected a se­ries of votes on amend­ments to her widely un­pop­u­lar with­drawal agree­ment.

Bri­tain is due to leave the EU on March 29 with or with­out an EU deal. Par­lia­ment en­tered a new stage in the labyrinthi­ne Brexit process Tues­day: law­mak­ers try­ing to wrest con­trol of Brexit away from Bri­tain’s leader.

The move would have un­der­mined Bri­tain’s con­sti­tu­tional pro­ce­dure.

The most sig­nif­i­cant amend­ment would have en­abled Par­lia­ment to force May to de­lay Brexit if law­mak­ers could not agree on her EU deal by the de­par­ture date in March.

A sep­a­rate, non­bind­ing amend­ment that called on Bri­tain’s gov­ern­ment to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit – ef­fec­tively de­fault­ing out of the EU – did pass.

In an ad­dress to Par­lia­ment, May said she would go back to EU lead­ers in Brus­sels and ask them to re­open the deal they spent a year and a half ne­go­ti­at­ing. May said she would ask for changes to the so-called Ir­ish back­stop, a plan that would en­sure free trade and travel across the Ir­ish fron­tier that EU mem­ber­ship al­lows.

It may be an up­hill bat­tle: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said a new deal would not be ne­go­ti­ated.

The ac­tiv­ity in the House of Com­mons came two weeks af­ter the deal May ne­go­ti­ated with the EU to leave the bloc was over­whelm­ingly voted down in Bri­tain’s Par­lia­ment. May sur­vived a no-con­fi­dence vote that threat­ened her lead­er­ship and cast doubt on whether Brexit would even hap­pen.

For many Bri­tish law­mak­ers, the most con­tentious part of May’s EU deal is the Ir­ish “back­stop” be­cause it largely leaves un­re­solved what to do with the land bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land (part of Bri­tain) and Ire­land (part of the EU). Years of peace be­tween North­ern Ire­land’s Ir­ish Catholic com­mu­nity and its Bri­tish Protes­tant one have been en­sured by the trade and travel across the bor­der with­out cus­toms checks.

All con­cerned want to avoid a re­turn to a “hard bor­der” be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land af­ter Brexit. The “back­stop” is a tem­po­rary mea­sure to al­low the bor­der to re­main open in the event that the U.K. and EU fail to reach a free trade deal.

Though May has not been able to ne- go­ti­ate a deal that sat­is­fies law­mak­ers, the ma­jor­ity of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, as well as economists, po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists and in­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts, agree leav­ing the EU with­out a deal would be a worst-case sce­nario. It would mean that decades-old EU leg­is­la­tion cov­er­ing health, travel, se­cu­rity, trade and more would evap­o­rate March 29.

The Bank of Eng­land warned it could cause the deep­est re­ces­sion in Bri­tain in nearly 100 years. A sur­vey by the Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce es­ti­mates it could threaten 1.4 mil­lion jobs and $593 bil­lion in di­rect in­vest­ment from U.S. com­pa­nies.

Three mil­lion EU na­tion­als who live in Bri­tain un­der EU “free­dom of move­ment” laws and 1.3 mil­lion Bri­tons who do the same in other EU na­tions would be­come un­doc­u­mented.

Ex­ec­u­tives from Bri­tain’s lead­ing su­per­mar­kets wrote a let­ter to the gov­ern­ment Mon­day warn­ing that a “no-deal” Brexit would lead to food short­ages and price rises.

Air­bus, which em­ploys 14,000 peo­ple in Bri­tain, said it could lead to plant clo­sures and job losses.

EPA-EFE

Par­lia­ment tried to as­sert more con­trol of the Brexit process.

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