22 January 2020
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday. Photo: Reuters

May says deal within grasp, Brexit delay won’t solve crisis

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the country’s timely exit for from the European Union is “within our grasp” and insisted that delaying Brexit would be no way to solve the impasse in parliament over the departure, Reuters reports.

Her comments came as the opposition Labour Party said it would support calls for a second referendum on Brexit, a potentially significant policy shift that could further damage May’s hopes of getting a divided parliament to approve her exit deal.

May said on Monday she wanted Brexit to happen as planned on March 29 and shrugged off expectations that she will be forced to delay to avoid leaving the EU in a disorderly way without an agreement.

With the crisis going down to the wire, May is struggling to get the kind of changes from the EU she says she needs to get her divorce deal through a divided parliament and smooth the country’s biggest policy shift in more than 40 years.

May, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for an EU/Arab League summit, met European leaders to push her efforts to make her deal more attractive to parliament, where frustrated lawmakers are gearing up to try to wrest control of Brexit from the government.

While she said EU leaders had given her a sense that a deal could be won, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said they risked “sleep-walking” into a no-deal Brexit and European Council President Donald Tusk described any delay as “a rational decision”.

For now, though, May is sticking firmly to the script, saying extending the negotiating period with the EU, which was triggered by Article 50 and which ends on March 29, would not solve the Brexit problem.

“What it does is precisely what the word ‘delay’ says. It just delays the point at which you come to that decision,” she told reporters at the summit. “And I think that any extension of Article 50, in that sense, isn’t addressing the issue. We have [a deal] within our grasp.”

May has promised to bring back a vote on her divorce settlement to parliament by March 12.

Her chances of winning any such vote were damaged later in the day when the main opposition Labour Party said it would support proposals for a second public vote to stop May’s Brexit deal if its own plan for Britain’s EU exit is rejected.

“We are committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country,” Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn was due to tell his party on Monday, according to his office.

The move could attract lawmakers who would have backed May’s deal purely to avoid a no-deal exit, but who would prefer a second referendum.

It was not clear whether there is a majority in parliament supporting another public vote, which would require a Brexit delay to allow for time to organize it. Britons voted by 52-48 percent in favor of leaving the EU in a referendum in 2016.

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