Tue, Sep 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Brexit plan reportedly opposed by 80 Tory rebels

MORE CRITICISM:Former junior Brexit minister Steve Baker said Theresa May was facing a huge problem at the Conservative Party conference at the end of this month

Reuters, LONDON

A demonstrator yesterday protests outside the British Houses of Parliament in London.

Photo: AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party faces a “catastrophic split” if she persists with her proposals on Brexit, which 80 or more of her lawmakers are prepared to vote against, a former junior minister said.

Such public criticism, a day after former British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs Boris Johnson cast her Brexit plans as “a suicide vest” wrapped around the British constitution, indicates how hard it could be for May to get any Brexit deal approved.

Steve Baker, a former junior Brexit minister who resigned over May’s so-called Chequers proposals on Brexit, told the Press Association he was not advocating a change of leader, but said May faced a massive problem at the party conference that starts on Sept. 30.

If 80 of May’s 315 lawmakers voted against a Brexit deal based on her proposals, the fate of the government and exit process would depend on the Labour Party, because she would not command the 320 votes needed to dominate parliament.

“If we come out of conference with her hoping to get Chequers through on the back of Labour votes, I think the EU negotiators would probably understand that if that were done, the Tory party would suffer the catastrophic split which thus far we have managed to avoid,” Baker was quoted as saying.

Other Conservatives have given much more modest estimates of the number of lawmakers who oppose her plans. While some Brexiteers are unhappy with her leadership, they see May as their best immediate hope of ensuring the UK leaves the EU on March 29 next year.

However, May’s spokesman said that she hopes parliament will support her Brexit plan.

“Chequers is the only plan on the table which will deliver on the will of the British people while avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. The prime minister is working hard to secure a deal and hopes all MPs [members of parliament] will be able to support it,” the spokesman said.

He said the Cabinet’s top team of ministers would meet on Thursday to discuss preparations for a possible “no deal” Brexit.

Under May’s proposals, Britain would seek a free-trade area for goods with the EU, largely by accepting a “common rulebook” for goods and British participation in EU agencies that provide authorizations for goods.

May should seek a free trade agreement under the terms outlined by European Council President Donald Tusk, Baker said.

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