Tuesday, December 6, 2022

British minister warns Brexit is stuck as no-deal or referendum loom

LONDON (Reuters) – Britains exit from the European Union was heading for an impasse, one senior minister sai..

By admin , in England , at December 15, 2018

LONDON (Reuters) – Britains exit from the European Union was heading for an impasse, one senior minister said on Saturday, after a week in which Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win EU assurances on her deal and pulled a vote because UK lawmakers would defeat it.

FILE PHOTO – British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news conference following a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

With just over 100 days until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, Brexit remains up in the air with growing calls for a no-deal exit, a potentially disorderly divorce that business fears would be highly damaging, or for a second referendum.

May pulled a vote on her deal on Monday after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the “backstop”, an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard land border for Ireland but which critics say could bind Britain to EU rules indefinitely.

Two days later, she survived a plot to oust her from her those in her own party who support a hardline Brexit, showing the level of opposition she faced.

May herself has acknowledged that Britains parliament appears deadlocked with no clear support for any option, with the small Northern Irish party that props up her government leading the criticism of her deal.

“Brexit is in danger of getting stuck – and that is something that should worry us all,” pensions minister Amber Rudd wrote in Saturdays Daily Mail newspaper.

“If MPs (lawmakers) dig in against the prime ministers deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble.”

At a summit in Brussels, Mays attempts to get legal assurances from the EU that the Irish backstop would only be a temporary measure was rebuffed with the blocs other 27 leaders saying they would not renegotiate the treaty.

However, May insisted at the summits conclusion on Friday that further clarification was still possible with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying: “We want to be helpful”.

Britains Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said parliament could still rally behind Mays agreement with additional assurances and said such clarifications were likely because EU countries knew no deal would be a disaster for them.

“When the dust has settled, the only way were going to get this through the House of Commons … is to have a version of the deal that the government has negotiated,” Hunt told BBC radio. “I dont think the EU could be remotely sure that if we dont find a way through this we wouldnt end up with no deal.”


However, the Times newspaper reported on Saturday that most of Mays ministers thought her deal was dead and were divided over the way forward.

Some were reluctantly leaning towards a second referendum, others favoured a closer, Norway-style relationship and a number, including Hunt, were willing to leave with no deal, the paper said.

One senior minister told Reuters on Friday that the risk of a “managed” no-deal Brexit was rising as was the likelihood of a second vote on EU membership.

“We are not ready for no deal, the public is not ready for no deal,” said the minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There is no plan B, at least, not that will get the support of the House (of Commons).”

Rudd said a no-deal scenario “mustnt be allowed to happen” and urged lawmakers from all parties come together to stop it.

“We need to try something different. Something that people do in the real world all the time, but which seems so alien in our political culture – to engage with others,” she said.

Britain's Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt arrives in Downing Street, London, Britain, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

“We need to acknowledge the risk that parliament could spend the next precious few months debating about preferred solutions and end up with no compromise, no agreement and no deal.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a leading pro-EU advocate, said on Friday a second Brexit referendum was now the most likely outcome to break the stalemate, a view shared by ardent Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

“Were actually becoming more divided on this subject than perhaps we were two-and-a-half years ago and thats why I think a second referendum gets closer,” Farage told BBC TV. “I hate the thought of it, but I tell you what, Im going to spend every minute getting ready for it.”

editing by Louise Heavens

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