Theresa May reaches out to EU in desperate bid to save Brexit deal before new vote
Having made a U-turn on Monday by deferring the crucial vote on Brexit agreement in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May dashed to Brussels to meet EU leaders to save the deal, but promised a new vote before January 21.
May faced another mauling in the British press on Tuesday morning, after MPs condemned her decision to defer the vote a day earlier. Westminster was seething with speculation that it is a matter of weeks, if not days, before she would be removed.
Some of the headlines were: ‘May’s last roll of the dice’, ‘Desperate May reveals her plan B: to buy more time’ and ‘May pleads for help from Europe’.
As May met German chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders to seek changes in the agreement, particularly on the issue of the so-called Northern Ireland ‘backstop’, a Downing Street spokesman said she will come to Parliament again with the deal before January 21.
The spokesman said: “We will be keeping with the spirit of the (EU withdrawal) act, and by doing so the government will ensure that the withdrawal agreement is brought back to the house before 21 January.”
Not ruling out a vote before the Christmas break, he added: “We want to ensure we work as quickly as possible to resolve this. Clearly what we will be guided by is getting the reassurances that the house needs.”
On May’s meetings in Brussels, he said: “While the leaders agreed that the backstop was only ever intended to be temporary, the Prime Minister set out the concerns held by many about it in the UK. She discussed the need for additional reassurances on this point, in order for the deal with the EU to pass the House of Commons.”
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, cautioned May that “we will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification. As time is running out, we will also discuss our preparedness for a no-deal scenario.”
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.
Amidst pressure from opposition parties to bring a no-confidence motion against the May government, Labour said in a statement that it would do so “when we judge it most likely to be successful.”
If May returned from Brussels with the same deal, “she will have decisively and unquestionably lost the confidence of Parliament on the most important issue facing the country, and Parliament will be more likely to bring about the general election our country needs to end this damaging deadlock,” the statement added.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had “lost control of events”, while many of her Conservative MPs called on her to stand down, saying she had allegedly lost all credibility. They were considering submitting letter of no-confidence to the so-called 1922 committee that decides and organises leadership contests within the party.
So far 26 Conservative MPs have publicly said they have written such letters; 48 are needed to trigger a vote on a new leader of the party.