PM May sees ‘paralysis, no Brexit’ as deal faces defeat in House of Commons
Making last-ditch efforts to persuade MPs to support the agreement, Prime Minister May said she was against extending the deadline of March 29 under Article 50 to leave the European Union, or holding another referendum.Updated: Jan 14, 2019 19:41 IST
New clarifications from Brussels on Monday failed to bolster the Theresa May government’s efforts to seek parliamentary endorsement for the EU withdrawal agreement on Tuesday, with ‘no Brexit’ and ‘paralysis’ cited as the most likely fallout of the impasse.
Making last-ditch efforts to persuade MPs to support the agreement, May said she was against extending the deadline of March 29 under Article 50 to leave the European Union, or holding another referendum.
May was told categorically by Brussels that “we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the withdrawal agreement,” when she sought clarifications on the controversial ‘backstop’ in the agreement.
The 5-page letter by EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker was perceived by critics as aspirational, replete with words of good intent and warm words, but did not fundamentally deliver what May wanted to help assuage MPs worried about the ‘backstop’.
On Tuesday, May is scheduled to close the House of Commons debate on Brexit before the agreement (and the political declaration on future UK-EU relations) will be put to vote in the evening.
Before making another statement in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, May travelled to Stoke-on-Trent in north England to reiterate her position: that the agreement is the best that is possible, and one that delivers on the verdict of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU.
“The only ways to guarantee we do not leave without a deal are: to abandon Brexit, betraying the vote of the British people; or to leave with a deal, and the only deal on the table is the one MPs will vote on tomorrow night.”
“But while no deal remains a serious risk, having observed events at Westminster over the last seven days, it is now my judgment that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in Parliament that risks there being no Brexit.”
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer responded to the clarifications from Brussels: “The prime minister has once again failed to deliver. This is a long way from the significant and legally effective commitment the prime minister promised last month. It is a reiteration of the EU’s existing position. Once again, nothing has changed.”
As Westminster pondered over various scenarios if and when the agreement is voted down on Tuesday evening – including Brexit not happening at all – leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson claimed that whatever happens, the UK will leave the EU on March 29.
He said: “I think, possibly, some colleagues are being scared by this idea that there might be no Brexit as a result of voting it down. I think that’s nonsense. Britain will leave in March, absolutely, and that’s the bottom line.”
“Any move by parliament to frustrate Brexit, he added, would be seen by voters as a betrayal. “And I think they will feel that there has been a great conspiracy by the deep state of the UK, the people who really run the country”.
First Published: Jan 14, 2019 18:52 IST