British lawmakers to mount last-ditch bid to avert no-deal Brexit

A pro-EU campaigner walking past posters mocking British politicians Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May and Boris Johnson in London yesterday. A group of lawmakers will try and pass a law today that will force Prime Minister May to further delay Brexit. Barr
A pro-EU campaigner walking past posters mocking British politicians Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May and Boris Johnson in London yesterday. A group of lawmakers will try and pass a law today that will force Prime Minister May to further delay Brexit. Barring a change of heart on the thrice-defeated Brexit deal presented by Mrs May, Britain is currently set to leave the EU without a deal on April 12.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

A group of British lawmakers is staging a last-ditch attempt to avert a no-deal Brexit, even as the United Kingdom lurched closer to such a disorderly departure from the European Union after another chaotic day in Parliament where every proposal put up for a vote failed.

The group said it will try and pass a law today that will force British Prime Minister Theresa May to further delay Brexit. Barring a change of heart on the thrice-defeated Brexit deal presented by Mrs May, the UK is currently set to leave the EU without a deal on April 12.

"This is a last-ditch attempt to prevent our country being exposed to the risks inherent in a no-deal exit," said Conservative MP Oliver Letwin, one of the leaders of the cross-party group.

"We realise this is difficult. But it is definitely worth trying."

Three options for the UK remain: Take Mrs May's deal and receive a short extension, crash out with no deal or face a long delay.

The EU would have to agree to any delay and has said that the UK would need to give a reason.

Yesterday, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also stressed that there would be no renegotiation of the deal. If the UK is to leave with a deal, it will have to pass the one it already has.

 
 
 

"If the UK still wants to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this agreement, this treaty, is and will be the only one," he said at a think-tank event in Brussels after British MPs rejected all four proposed alternatives to the Brexit deal.

Other EU leaders held similarly firm lines. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the EU cannot be held hostage to the Brexit crisis, noting that a lengthy extension to the deadline was not a certainty.

Earlier in the day, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters that a no-deal exit was now likely.

"We have to take into consideration a no-deal possibility. It is a probability," he said.

News of the political impasse and uncertainty caused the pound to slip. At the start of London's trading session yesterday, the pound extended losses to touch US$1.3025, down 0.6 per cent on the day, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Mrs May chaired a five-hour Cabinet meeting yesterday to hash out a plan to end the political stasis that has been plaguing Brexit progress.

Parliament - and Mrs May's ruling Conservative Party - remains deeply divided over Brexit.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has indicated the government could hold a fourth vote on Mrs May's deal later this week, for which the outcome will be crucial to whether Britain will need to participate in the next round of European parliamentary elections next month. European leaders convene for a special summit on Wednesday next week.

Some critics have suggested that Mrs May may have some momentum for her deal, given that Parliament so far cannot agree on any of the alternatives.

Professor Iain Begg of the European Institute and co-director of the Dahrendorf Forum at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told The Straits Times: "Despite the looming cliff-edge, I still think a no-deal will be prevented, even if it is at the last moment. It should also be recalled that the House did vote decisively to avoid no deal. For me, the most likely immediate outcome would be a move to a much longer... timetable."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2019, with the headline 'British lawmakers to mount last-ditch bid to avert no-deal Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe