tuesday, 15 january of 2019


May faces defeat in parliament over Brexit plan

Prime Minister Theresa May faced the prospect of a historic defeat in a vote on her Brexit deal in parliament on Tuesday potentially leaving Britain in limbo about the biggest political and economic change for the country in decades.

Barely two-and-a-half months before Britain is due to leave the EU, May’s expected defeat leaves open a range of outcomes, from resurrecting her deal, leaving the EU with no deal at all or holding another referendum that could halt Brexit altogether.

The prime minister’s hopes of keeping her widely unpopular plan alive will hinge on the scale of her expected loss. A comparatively narrow defeat could allow her to try again, but a loss by 100 votes or more would most likely be seen as dooming the plan for good.

As Britain’s deepest political crisis for at least half a century built to a head, a spokesman for May said she would respond quickly to the result of the vote.

He also said there had been no discussion at a meeting between the prime minister and her cabinet on Tuesday morning of delaying Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline.

May says accepting her deal is the only way parliament can fulfil its promise to deliver on the 2016 vote to quit the EU, and failing to do so would be “catastrophic” for democracy. Her ministers pressed that message on the morning of the vote.

The British people have placed a responsibility on us,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC radio. “Are we going to live up to that responsibility and vote to leave the European Union or are we going to disappoint them and damage our democracy by not voting to leave the EU?

Many Brexit-supporting lawmakers from May’s Conservative Party reject the deal, particularly a “backstop” requirement that Northern Ireland stay closely aligned to EU rules to avoid the return of a hard border with EU member Ireland.

Dominic Raab, who resigned as May’s Brexit minister in November in protest at her plans, said the government should not lose its nerve over the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, something many employers fear would mean chaos for business.

It’s time for us, through this vote, to make clear not just that the current terms are unacceptable, but that we are not just throwing our hands up in the air,” he said.

We are going to leave on March 29.”

Investors sense the possibility of a no-deal Brexit is receding, given the concerns of lawmakers about the upheaval it could bring. Sterling hit a two-month high against the U.S. dollar on Monday and held near that level on Tuesday.Germany’s foreign minister said the EU could hold new talks with Britain after a defeat in parliament of the plan May struck with other leaders of the bloc in November, but he ruled out significant changes to the agreement.

May has refused to budge over her deal despite criticism from all quarters. The agreement, which envisages close economic ties with the EU, has united the opposing sides of the debate — pro-EU lawmakers who see it as the worst of all worlds and Brexit supporters who say it will make Britain a vassal state.

May and EU leaders swapped assurances on the withdrawal deal on Monday, but there was little sign of a change of heart among rebel lawmakers.

The EU told May that it stood by commitments to seek ways to avoid triggering the Irish “backstop”. That failed to reassure Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government and said it still rejects the deal.

May has warned pro-Brexit lawmakers that if her plan is rejected no Brexit at all would be more likely than Britain leaving the EU without a deal. She has also warned her Conservative Party against allowing the left-wing opposition Labour Party to seize the initiative.

Labour is formally committed to Brexit but opposes May’s deal. Polls of party activists show that most want the party to back a new referendum. It has not done so, but has not ruled it out if May’s deal is voted down and she refuses to resign.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, hoping to force a national election, is expected to call for a parliamentary vote of no confidence in May if she loses Tuesday’s vote.


Brussels willing to offer July extension to Brexit as Theresa May's Plan looks doomed

THE EU is willing to offer a Brexit delay until the summer, officials in Brussels have suggested, as Theresa May today delivers an eleventh-hour rallying cry to MPs to back her beleaguered Brexit plan.

This morning, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, is due to set out “further assurances” to the UK over the Irish backstop, yet most MPs believe it will not be enough to help get the Prime Minister’s proposal over the line in tomorrow evening’s Commons vote.

However, one EU official said: “Should the Prime Minister survive and inform us that she needs more time to win round Parliament to a deal, a technical extension up to July will be offered.”

With less than 48 hours to go before MPs have their rescheduled meaningful vote, Mrs May will warn that Parliament is more likely to block Brexit entirely than allow Britain to crash out of the EU without a deal.

Speaking in Stoke, which voted heavily to leave the EU, she will warn that failing to deliver the mandate of the 2016 referendum vote would do “catastrophic harm” to Britain’s democracy.

In an impassioned speech, the PM will say: “Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that, despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would over-rule them, or else force them to vote again.

“What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a Remain vote?

People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.”

Mrs May will also declare: “We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.”

Her warning comes as Downing Street said it was "extremely concerned" about a supposed “plot” by MPs to change Commons rules to enable backbench motions to take precedence over Government business if Mrs May's deal fell.

The supposed conspiracy was overheard by Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, in the MPs’ cloakroom last week.

One senior Government source branded the move “a very British coup”, as it would mean UK ministers would not be in control of parliamentary business as they historically have been.

It emerged John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, met Tory Remain rebel Dominic Grieve on Tuesday – the day before his controversial decision to allow MPs a vote on the former Attorney General's amendment to the timetable of the Brexit deal.

A source close to Mr Bercow was quoted as saying: “He is setting out to stop Brexit. He’s part of the rebel team.”

A spokeswoman for the Speaker admitted Mr Bercow had met Mr Grieve last Tuesday but stressed: “We have no knowledge of backbench rule changes.”

It was suggested Tory whips were sharing details of the so-called plot with leading Brexiteers to persuade them to support the PM’s plan and save Brexit.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said any such move to change parliamentary procedure would be a “huge mistake”.

Meanwhile, David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, urged colleagues to back Mrs May’s plan, claiming there was no "lengthy wish-list of fanciful Brexit options", but only the alternatives of no-deal and no Brexit.

Four Brexiteer backbenchers, including veteran Sir Edward Leigh, who was appointed to the Privy Council last month, announced they would back the PM's deal, despite speculation they could vote against it.

In other developments:

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, made clear he intended to table a no-confidence motion in the UK Government “soon” after the PM’s plan was defeated

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to make her own announcement on the back of MPs rejecting Mrs May’s Brexit proposal regarding a second independence referendum

Ian Blackford, who leads the SNP at Westminster, repeated his call for an extension to Article 50 and a People’s Vote, and warned: “If the Tory Government is intent on driving the UK off the Brexit cliff-edge, then Scotland cannot – and will not – be in the passenger seat

a cross-party group of MPs today will publish legislation to bring about a People’s Vote in 2019

Nick Boles, the former Skills Minister, who backs Norway Plus, accused UK ministers of a “gross dereliction of responsibility” for not engaging with opposition MPs more to seek a compromise deal

Sir John Major, the former premier, called on Mrs May to revoke Article 50 to halt Brexit, as he warned it would be "morally reprehensible" to crash out of the EU without a deal

some 14 military planners have been deployed to four key Whitehall departments to assist with no-deal planning

more than 100 MEPs from 26 EU member states have signed a letter calling on the UK to "reconsider" its Brexit decision, saying the UK's departure will "weaken all of us"

Economists for Free Trade, backed by Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith, said that although Brexit with a free trade agreement with the EU would be the best possible outcome, with time running out, a departure on World Trade Organisation terms was now the “best solution to the Brexit impasse

(Published by Reuters and Herald Scotland)

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