May hangs on to Brexit control
Prime minister says she’ll keep pursuing EU deal
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.
Parliament tried to assert more control of the Brexit process.