Monday, 25 March, 2019

British MPs force May's hand as Brexit vote looms

French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau in conversation with compatriot Michel Barnier the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator More French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau in conversation with compatriot Michel Barnier the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator More
Doris Mccormick | 10 January, 2019, 16:28

A group of 17 Tory rebels inflicted yet another Brexit loss for Mrs May as they joined a majority in the Commons in demanding she set out an alternative strategy within three days of any defeat on her agreement.

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith fears her party will be punished at the ballot box by voters in the region and slip behind the Tories into second place if Parliament ultimately votes for Brexit to go ahead.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is rapidly losing control over her Brexit strategy after the government suffered a pair of humiliating defeats in the House of Commons this week that have opened the door to a range of possibilities, including another referendum on Brexit.

It was passed by 308 votes to 297, but a decision by Commons' Speaker John Bercow to allow Mr Grieve's amendment to be put to a vote prompted a furious row.

Amid chaotic scenes in the chamber, MPs backed an amendment requiring the PM to come back to the Commons within three working days to set out her Plan B if her Withdrawal Agreement is rejected in next week's vote.

The Labour leader will argue that a government with a new mandate could negotiate a better withdrawal deal as he reiterates his call for another election.

The prime minister has already pulled the vote once with defeat looming, and a loss for the government would plunge Britain into "uncharted territory", according to May, putting the whole process up for grabs.

The government needs 318 votes to get a deal through parliament as seven Sinn Fein lawmakers do not sit, four speakers and deputy speaker do not vote and the four tellers are not counted.

Crispin Blunt was among those to question the Speaker's impartiality, saying many will have the "unshakeable conviction that the referee is no longer neutral".

May has refused publicly to consider an alternative plan, battling instead to shore up political support for the withdrawal agreement struck between Britain and the European Union after months of painstaking negotiations.

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The government said it was an "inconvenience" but would not stop preparations for leaving the EU.

While a majority of MPs may vote to take a "no deal" Brexit off the table, that would not legally oblige Mrs May's government to do so.

Mr Grieve had tabled the amendment Tuesday night after pro-EU MPs had passed an amendment to the Finance Bill created to prohibit spending on No Deal preparations without authorisation from Parliament - which is dominated by Remainers and largely opposed to No Deal.

But Bercow, who won equally noisy support from Labour MPs and some remain-minded Conservatives, insisted that he could make the decision and that he would side with the interests of parliament over the executive.

UK Brexit minister Martin Callanan ruled out that prospect and said May would update MPs on Wednesday about the assurances over the backstop she is seeking from the EU.

The backstop would keep open the border between British Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland after Brexit by temporarily aligning Britain with European Union trade rules.

The Daily Telegraph accuses Mr Bercow of "ignoring legal advice and parliamentary precedent" but the paper's leader says it may turn out to be a positive move, writing: "Even if he has done it for the wrong reasons, the decision to bring matters to a head is arguably the correct one".

"If the prime minister's Brexit deal is defeated next week, she must return to parliament as soon as possible and give MPs a real say on what happens next".

He wrote: "Parliament can establish that it wants no deal to be ruled out".

As for a snap election, if Corbyn and his Labour party fails to oust May's Tory party, it'll only serve to reinforce May's position in Brexit negotiations and that means in all likelihood the United Kingdom could be heading towards some form of deal with the European Union after a series of delays.

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