May's deal returns to Parliament as endgame nears

09 January, 2019, 23:55 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • The devolved institutions at Stormont have been suspended since former deputy first minister Martin Mc Guinness resigned two years ago

MPs have backed measures created to thwart preparations for a no-deal Brexit, by defeating the government in the House of Commons.

But, combined with a vote late on Tuesday when the government lost on the finance bill, the defeats underline May's precarious position in parliament.

May called off the December vote at the last minute when it became clear that a majority of lawmakers - from the governing Conservatives as well as opposition parties - opposed the deal, a compromise that has left both pro-European and pro-Brexit politicians unhappy.

Theresa May suffered yet another defeat over Brexit on Wednesday after a furious row erupted between Tory MPs and Commons Speaker John Bercow.

May survived a non-confidence vote from within her party last month, but was not given an overwhelming boost from the secret ballot, with 117 of 317 going against her.

The future of Brexit remains deeply uncertain - with options ranging from a disorderly exit from the European Union to another membership referendum - because British lawmakers are expected on January 15 to vote down the deal May struck with the EU in November.

The 303 to 296 defeat means the government needs explicit parliamentary approval to leave the European Union without a deal before it can use certain powers relating to taxation law.

A potentially damaging no-deal exit is the default scenario if May's deal is rejected, with the UK's central bank warning that Britain's gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by up to eight percent in such a scenario.

The House of Commons voted to reduce the time the government has to explain its "plan B" from 21 sitting days to three if, as expected, lawmakers reject the draft Brexit agreement in a vote on Tuesday.

The Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said there were "some concerns" about his decision and asked him to confirm it was taken with "full advice" from the Commons clerk Sir David Natzler.

Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy
Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy

"We've put a good deal on the table that protects job and security", May said, adding that there would be no general election in the event that her plan is rebuffed.

Mrs May retorted: "The only way to avoid no-deal is to vote for the deal".

Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to now rule out a no-deal "once and for all".

Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke earlier said he found it "unbelievable" that some MPs were trying to stop the Commons expressing its opinion on the matter.

In the Commons, Tory anger was directed towards Mr Bercow who many MPs have long suspected is unduly sympathetic to the Remain cause.

While the current numbers suggest Mrs May will still lose the vote, her government has said it will not be postponed a second time and will go ahead next Tuesday evening.

Opposition to May's deal is spread across the political spectrum, including sections of her own ruling Conservative Party and the 10 Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs her government relies on to command a majority in parliament.

However, it has failed to convince the DUP to backstop the Brexit deal.

Critics of the backstop argue it could tie the United Kingdom into the EU's orbit indefinitely.

The other 27 European Union leaders have repeatedly said they will not reopen the deal struck with Britain in November, which covers key separation issues such as money and expatriate citizens' rights. And there is no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternate course.


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