Theresa May could offer resignation date to get Brexit deal through

Anti-Brexit demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday. Nearly three years after the 2016 EU membership referendum, and three days before Britain was supposed to leave the bloc, it remains unclear how, when or even if Brexit w
Anti-Brexit demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday. Nearly three years after the 2016 EU membership referendum, and three days before Britain was supposed to leave the bloc, it remains unclear how, when or even if Brexit will take place, with Parliament and the nation divided. PHOTO: REUTERS

British PM says her deal is the only way to ensure orderly exit safeguarding business

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May will address her Conservative lawmakers today, possibly to announce a resignation date in a last throw of the dice to win support for her twice-rejected Brexit deal in Parliament.

At her weakest after Parliament seized control of the Brexit process on Monday, Mrs May has yet to give up hope of getting approval for her deal to leave the European Union, which she says is the only way of ensuring an orderly exit that will safeguard business.

Parliament's move seemed to have focused minds, however, with some eurosceptic lawmakers saying they could back her plan before choosing a new leader for the next phase of talks with the EU.

But as yet her Northern Irish power brokers are still opposed.

One Conservative MP said the Prime Minister's decision to address the party's so-called 1922 Committee this evening suggested she could set her date of departure to win over that support.

Nearly three years after the 2016 EU membership referendum, and three days before Britain was supposed to leave the bloc, it remains unclear how, when or even if Brexit will take place, with Parliament and the nation divided.

Mrs May could try to bring her deal back to Parliament tomorrow for a third vote, but her spokesman said the government would only do that if it had a chance of winning.

  • Scenarios

  • 1. LEAVE WITH DEAL ON MAY 22

    British MPs have twice rejected a draft divorce agreement struck between London and Brussels last November. A new vote on the agreement, which allows for a long transition period and time for trade ties to be negotiated, will be brought forward only if it has sufficient support to pass. If MPs overcome numerous objections from Brexiteers and Remainers and approve the deal, Britain will leave the European Union on May 22.

  • 2. NO-DEAL BREXIT ON APRIL 12 OR LATER

    If the deal is not passed, and no other course of action can be agreed on, the default option would be that Britain leaves without a deal.

    According to a European official, that hard deadline would be midnight Brussels time on April 12, but French President Emmanuel Macron has said this was not "necessarily" the case and a later date for no-deal Brexit could be agreed upon.

  • 3. NEW PLAN, LONG BREXIT DELAY

    MPs are set to hold "indicative votes" this week on a range of alternative Brexit options that could rip up the withdrawal agreement and remove some of Prime Minister Theresa May's red lines, such as ending freedom of movement. If a course of action can be agreed on, Britain could ask EU leaders for another, much longer delay by April 12.

  • 4. STOP BREXIT

    This is by far the least likely option, although a possibility. An estimated one million people flooded London last Saturday, calling for a second referendum on EU membership.

    An online petition asking the government to end the Brexit process has garnered more than 5.5 million signatures since last Wednesday. The European Court of Justice has ruled that Britain could unilaterally revoke its Article 50 notification - the formal procedure for leaving the EU.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Her Cabinet team met yesterday, digesting Monday's votes but also trying to plot a way of winning over the 75 lawmakers it must convince to get the so-called Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU through Parliament.

"They had a long discussion both in relation to the votes which took place last night and on the work which is ongoing to build support for the government's deal to allow us to leave the EU in an orderly way as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

"If we are able to hold and win a vote this week we would then be able to leave the EU in less than two months' time with a deal, which the Prime Minister firmly believes is what the public wants."

The spokesman said Mrs May would "engage constructively" with lawmakers who seized control of Brexit on Monday, but gave them a warning - there is no point supporting different options that the EU will not negotiate.

With lawmakers poised to promote several possible options, ranging from a no-deal Brexit to staying in the EU, Parliament has come to the point when it must decide how to proceed.

While some lawmakers suggested a tweaked version of Mrs May's deal could finally win their approval, the threat of a softer Brexit or long-delayed departure was focusing other minds.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a Conservative faction demanding a clean break from the EU, said the choice now seemed to be between Mrs May's deal or no Brexit.

"I have always thought that no-deal is better than Mrs May's deal. But Mrs May's deal is better than not leaving at all," Mr Rees-Mogg, who has described the deal as leaving Britain "a slave state", said in a podcast.

Another eurosceptic Conservative lawmaker, Mr Michael Fabricant, said he too had come to the same "dreadful conclusion" that Mrs May's plan was the "least worst option but the only practical way forward for now".

In yet another blow to Mrs May, who saw three more ministers quit her government, lawmakers wrested control of Parliament's agenda from the government on Monday, opening the way for a series of votes on the different Brexit options today.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'May could offer resignation date to get Brexit deal through'. Print Edition | Subscribe