London, UK : British Prime Minister Theresa May has deferred a parliamentary vote on a Brexit deal. She plans to have further talks with the EU centering on the issue of the Irish backstop, as her position becomes even more confused.
The United Kingdom’s political crisis over its planned departure from the European Union intensified on Monday after Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers that she would delay a vote on a draft exit deal and hold further talks with EU leaders.
The government would have been rejected “by a significant margin,” May admitted.
May said she would seek reassurances from the remaining EU member countries which would allow her to secure a parliamentary majority in the deal’s favor.
“It is clear that while there is broad support for many of the key aspects of the deal, on one issue, the Northern Ireland backstop, there remains widespread and deep concern,” May said in a speech to the House of Commons on Monday.
Many hard-line Brexit lawmakers fear the backstop, which aims to keep an open border between the UK province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. They believe this
could force the UK to adhere to EU rules indefinitely.
“It is the right deal for Britain, I am determined to do all I can to secure the reassurances this House requires to get this deal over the line and deliver for the British people,” May said.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main Labour opposition, said the UK no longer had “a functioning government.”
“The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray.” he said.
Lawmakers from the pro-EU Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and pro-EU Liberal Democrats pledged to support a no-confidence vote in May’s government.
“With the fiasco today, the government has really lost all authority. I and my colleagues will fully support the leader of the opposition if he now proceeds to a no confidence vote as duty surely calls,” Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said.
The anti-EU Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a Northern Irish party that props up May’s minority government, called the situation a “shambles.”
“Frankly, what the prime minister says today simply isn’t credible,” deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds said.
EU leaders have repeatedly said they would not reopen negotiations over the draft deal.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said both sides had worked hard on the draft and that he could “not see what should be changed” in further negotiations. “We want an orderly Brexit,” he said.
Ahead of May’s speech to Parliament, a spokeswoman for EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “this is the best and only deal possible; we will not renegotiate.”
May’s announcement came after the EU’s top court ruled that London could unilaterally cancel its decision to leave the EU. Some pro-EU lawmakers have called for asking the public on whether to remain in the EU in a second referendum.
But May warned in her speech that a second referendum would risk deepening divisions and merely lead to calls for a third referendum. She also said there was no other possible exit deal that would secure a parliamentary majority.
Britain’s currency fell to $1.2515, its weakest level against the US dollar since April 2017 and to €1.10.
EARLIER : UK Can Unilaterally Reverse Brexit – ECJ
Luxembourg : Britain can unilaterally decide not to leave the European Union, ECJ, the bloc’s top court ruled on Monday, one day before British lawmakers are due to vote on the Brexit deal London has struck with Brussels.
The ruling is expected to boost the cause of those seeking a second referendum on Britain’s departure from the EU, potentially weighing further against the already slim chance of British Prime Minister Theresa May getting the deal through parliament
The decision to reverse Brexit would be a “sovereign” choice, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) argued. Subjecting it to the approval of other member states could end up forcing Britain to leave “against its will,” the court said in a statement.
The petitioners, who initially brought the case before the Scottish courts, had asked whether Britain can reverse its decision to trigger the Brexit countdown, arguing that lawmakers should be aware of all options when they cast their Brexit votes.
The British government had sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the question is purely hypothetical since it has no intention of reversing Brexit.
But the Luxembourg-based judges rejected that argument.
The case was handled under an expedited procedure due to the tight Brexit time frame. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, two years after May invoked Article 50 of the EU treaty, triggering the countdown.
If Britain were to end the Brexit countdown – a decision that would have to be taken in line with democratic process and constitutional requirements – it would remain an EU member “under terms that are unchanged,” the court found.
The decision could be taken at any point before Britain’s withdrawal agreement – the legal text detailing its terms of departure – enters into force, or before the Brexit countdown period has ended, on March 29 or later, if it is extended.
The judges said it would be “inconsistent” with EU law to subject that decision to the unanimous approval of the other EU members, as Brussels has wanted. This would be “incompatible with the principle that a member state cannot be forced to leave the EU against its will.”
The ruling is broadly in line with the recommendations of Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona, a top advisor to the court.
It could, however, open the way for disgruntled member states to trigger Article 50 in future, in the hope of negotiating better membership terms.
The British parliament is due to vote on Tuesday on the withdrawal agreement as well as a political declaration outlining joint ambitions for the future relationship between Britain and the EU.
May, whose Conservative Party is deeply divided on Brexit, has faced an uphill struggle to sell the deal to parliament. Hardline eurosceptics fear that it binds Britain too closely to the EU, while those in favour of a softer Brexit say it goes too far.