May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay
|National Post 20 Jan 2019 at 18:14|
LONDON ‚ÄĒ As Prime Minister Theresa May prepared her next move in Britain‚Äôs deadlocked Brexit battle, a senior opposition politician said Sunday that it‚Äôs unlikely the U.K. will leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29.
A government minister, however, warned that failure to deliver on Brexit would betray voters and unleash a ‚Äúpolitical tsunami.‚ÄĚ
May is due to present Parliament with a revised Brexit plan on Monday, after the divorce deal she had struck the EU was rejected by lawmakers last week. With just over two months until Britain is due to leave the bloc, some members of Parliament are pushing for the U.K. to delay its departure until the country‚Äôs divided politicians can agree on a way forward.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said ‚Äúit‚Äôs inevitable‚ÄĚ Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the two-year countdown to exit that ends on March 29.
‚ÄúThe 29th of March is 68 days away,‚ÄĚ Starmer told the BBC. ‚ÄúWe are absolutely not prepared for it. It would be catastrophic.‚ÄĚ
We are absolutely not prepared for it. It would be catastrophic
Britain‚Äôs political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies. Many economists expect Britain to plunge into recession if there is a ‚Äúno-deal‚ÄĚ Brexit.
May‚Äôs government is split between ministers who think a disorderly departure must be avoided at all costs, and Brexit-backers who believe it would be preferable to delaying or reversing Brexit.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who quit the government in opposition to May‚Äôs agreement with the EU, said a no-deal Brexit would have ‚Äúshort-term risks,‚ÄĚ but they would be ‚Äúmanageable.‚ÄĚ
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that ‚Äúfailure to deliver Brexit would produce a yawning gap between Parliament and the people, a schism in our political system with unknowable consequences.‚ÄĚ
He said public anger could trigger ‚Äúa political tsunami.‚ÄĚ
A lone demonstrator stands by an entrance to Britain‚Äôs parliament in London, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Talks to end Britain‚Äôs Brexit stalemate appeared deadlocked Friday, with neither Prime Minister Theresa May nor the main opposition leader shifting from their entrenched positions. Kirsty Wigglesworth / ASSOCIATED PRESS
May has spent the days since her deal was thrown out meeting government and opposition lawmakers in an attempt to find a compromise. But the talks have produced few signs that May plans to make radical changes to her deal, or to lift her insistence that Brexit means leaving the EU‚Äôs single market and customs union.
Fox said one possible solution could be to strike a deal with the Irish government guaranteeing there would be no border controls between EU member Ireland and the U.K.‚Äôs Northern Ireland.
He said that could ease concerns about the deal‚Äôs most contentious measure ‚ÄĒ an insurance policy known as the ‚Äúbackstop‚ÄĚ that would keep Britain in an EU customs union to maintain an open Irish border after Brexit. Pro-Brexit lawmakers worry that Britain could be trapped indefinitely in the arrangement, bound to EU trade rules and unable to strike new deals around the world.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, however, tweeted that the Irish government was committed to the entire withdrawal deal, ‚Äúincluding the backstop.‚ÄĚ
British lawmakers who want a softer Brexit are preparing to try to amend May‚Äôs plans in a Jan. 29 debate, and to use parliamentary rules to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit and take control of the exit process.
Conservative lawmaker Nicky Morgan said she and several opposition colleagues planned to introduce a bill to ensure ‚Äúthat if the prime minister can‚Äôt get an agreement approved by the House of Commons by the end of February,‚ÄĚ the U.K. will ask the EU to postpone its departure date ‚Äúso that we can build a consensus and get ourselves more prepared for Brexit. ‚ÄĚ
Delaying Brexit would require approval from the 27 other EU nations.
Starmer said there was a roadblock in the way of a solution to the Brexit crisis, ‚Äúand that roadblock is the prime minister.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHer mind is closed,‚ÄĚ he said.
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