May plans new Brexit vote to secure departure delay

March 29, 2019 07:31
A pro-Brexit demonstrator holds placards outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May scrambled for a way to secure a new delay to Brexit in the face of parliamentary deadlock by setting out plans for a watered-down vote on her EU divorce deal to be held on Friday, Reuters reports.

Lawmakers will vote on May’s withdrawal agreement at a special sitting but not on the framework for future relations with the EU she negotiated at the same time, a maneuver which sparked confusion among lawmakers.

Britain agreed with the EU last week to delay Brexit from the originally planned March 29 until April 12, with a further delay until May 22 on offer if May could get her divorce package ratified by lawmakers this week after two failed attempts.

“The European Union will only agree an extension until May 22 if the withdrawal agreement is approved this week,” House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom told lawmakers. “Tomorrow’s motion gives parliament the opportunity to secure that extension.”

May’s Brexit package, comprising the legally binding withdrawal agreement and a more general political declaration on the future relationship with the EU, has been overwhelmingly rejected by lawmakers on two previous occasions.

It remains uncertain how, when or even whether the United Kingdom, the world’s fifth-biggest economy, will leave the EU.

The risks that it could crash out as early as April 12 without a transition deal to soften the shock to its economy, or be forced into a long delay to the departure date to hold a general election, have increased as other options have faded.

May’s struggles to pass her deal have thrown the process into chaos, resulting in Brexit being put off and even a pledge from the premier to quit if that is what it takes to win over eurosceptic opponents in her Conservative party to the plan.

Although it cannot clinch approval of May’s deal in legal terms, Friday’s vote now dares Conservative eurosceptics to vote against the government on the very day that Britain was due to leave the bloc, a goal they have cherished for decades.

Parliament’s speaker said he would allow the vote to go ahead as it would be on the withdrawal deal only and so did not break rules against bringing the same package back more than once in the same session of parliament.

– Contact us at [email protected]