Opposition Labour set to back bid for extra barrier to no-deal Brexit

A safety craft manoeuvring its way among pilings at Dover Marina in Britain last Saturday. The port, which operates 120 ferries a day carrying 10,000 lorries, accounts for 17 per cent of Britain's trade in goods. As part of a government exercise yest
A safety craft manoeuvres through construction pilings at Dover Marina in Britain, on Jan 5, 2019. The port, which operates 120 ferries a day carrying 10,000 trucks, accounts for 17 percent of Britain's trade in goods. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON • Britain's main opposition Labour Party is expected to back a proposal today that could mean the government needs parliamentary approval for a no-deal Brexit, putting up a new hurdle for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, but the deal Prime Minister May has negotiated with the bloc looks unlikely to be approved by lawmakers in its current form, generating huge uncertainty about the path of the world's fifth-largest economy.

Preparations for leaving without a deal - the default scenario if Mrs May's agreement is rejected - have been ramped up, with government and businesses activating and testing contingency plans designed to limit the expected disruption.

That has prompted a group of lawmakers from across the political spectrum to come up with a plan to try to win Parliament the authority to prevent a no-deal exit by amending legislation. The plan, if successful, would mean that Parliament would need to explicitly approve a no-deal exit before the government could exercise certain powers it would need to implement one.

The amendment to a Bill that is designed to implement the Budget and gives the government the authority to keep its tax-raising powers intact after Brexit could be put before Parliament today if it is chosen by the Speaker.

Tax is just one in a long list of areas in which the government needs to make changes to legislation to disentangle UK from the EU after more than 40 years of membership.

Meanwhile, a record low of just 18 per cent of British voters think Mrs May has got the right Brexit deal, an ORB poll published yesterday showed.


When asked if they were confident that Mrs May had the right deal, 59 per cent disagreed, 21 per cent said they did not know and 18 per cent agreed, the lowest level ever recorded by the poll, which has been monitoring views of her negotiation since 2016. The poll, which has been carried out monthly since the end of 2016, surveyed 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom.

A Labour source said the party was expected to vote in favour of the amendment to the Bill.

Because Mrs May does not have an outright majority in Parliament to rely upon, and her own Conservative Party is split over Brexit, Labour's support would give the amendment a chance of passing if enough Tories also support it.

It would not be an outright block on Britain leaving without a deal, but would create both a political and technical headache for the government.

"Practically, it constrains the government's ability to do certain things if a no deal happens. What it doesn't do is stop no deal," said Mr Joe Owen, associate director of the Brexit programme at the Institute for Government think-tank.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2019, with the headline 'Opposition Labour set to back bid for extra barrier to no-deal Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe