No-trust vote, new poll? UK braces for key Brexit week
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No-trust vote, new poll? UK braces for key Brexit week

Leading lights in the Brexit debate took to the news media on Sunday to reiterate their positions. Prime Minister May insisted in a column that failure to deliver Brexit would amount to “a catastrophic and unforgivable trust in our democracy”, urging support for the agreement.

world Updated: Jan 14, 2019 00:07 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Pro-European demonstrators protest outside parliament in London, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to win support for her Brexit deal in Parliament. Lawmakers are due to vote on the agreement Tuesday, and all signs suggest they will reject it, adding uncertainty to Brexit less than three months before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)(AP)

It used to be said that a week is a long time in politics, but the next two days alone are likely to throw up rare scenarios: the Theresa May government losing the key vote on the EU withdrawal agreement on Tuesday and Labour tabling a no-confidence motion soon after.

Leading lights in the Brexit debate took to the news media on Sunday to reiterate their positions. Prime Minister May insisted in a column that failure to deliver Brexit would amount to “a catastrophic and unforgivable trust in our democracy”, urging support for the agreement.

Former prime minister John Major wrote that revoking Article 50 (of the Lisbon Treaty that deals with an EU member-state leaving the group) is the “only sensible” course. He wants another referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Calling Tuesday’s vote the biggest in parliament since the UK’s decision to join the Iraq war in 2003, London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote that May should resign and call a general election if the agreement is defeated on Tuesday; if not, he would campaign for another referendum.

“It appears increasingly likely that Theresa May’s bad Brexit deal will be rejected by parliament – and rightly so. It’s a deal that would cause huge damage to the future of our country, putting jobs, prosperity and social mobility at grave risk,” he wrote.

“If MPs reject the deal, then Theresa May should do the responsible thing: immediately step aside and call a general election. Sadly, the Tories have a long history of putting their party above the national interest, so if an election is not immediately called, I will step up my campaign for a public vote - with the option of remaining in the EU on the ballot paper.”

According to The Observer, “Messages have been sent to Labour MPs, even those who are unwell, to ensure their presence both for the ‘meaningful vote’ on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint on Tuesday and the following day”.

“Labour whips have told MPs the no-confidence vote is likely to be tabled within hours of a government loss, with the actual vote taking place on Wednesday,” it reported.

May is expected to make a statement before the vote on Tuesday, setting out new details of clarifications she promised to secure from Brussels on the so-called ‘backstop’ applicable to Ireland-Northern Ireland, which faces the strongest objection from MPs, since it implies the UK remaining tied to EU rules indefinitely if a trade deal is not agreed with the EU by the end of the transition period in December 2020.

After MPs used parliamentary devices to curb the government’s powers in the Brexit process last week, Sunday papers reported a plan by a group of MPs across parties to change House of Commons rules to enable backbench motions to take precedence over government business if May’s deal fails.

This would give MPs, rather than ministers, control of parliamentary business and sideline the prime minister. One fall-out of this could be MPs then legally compelling the government to delay Brexit beyond the set departure date of March 29.

First Published: Jan 13, 2019 16:58 IST