Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 7 News List

May faces lawmakers after Brexit loss

WAY OUT?An advocate general of the European Court of Justice issued an opinion that London could unilaterally halt Brexit, but May said that would not settle debates

AFP, LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday returned to the House of Commons after a series of defeats by lawmakers that threaten her government and could change the course of Brexit.

May was to take questions from lawmakers the day after they found her ministers in contempt over the legal advice on her EU withdrawal agreement, and gave themselves a bigger say if the deal is rejected as expected on Tuesday next week.

The Northern Irish party, on which May relies for support in parliament, sided with the Labour Party on the contempt vote.

Meanwhile, 25 of her own Conservative legislators voted with Labour to give the Commons the ability to decide what happens next if it votes down the Brexit deal.

“The day May lost control,” read the front page of the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph.

In a dramatic hour on Tuesday evening, the government lost three key votes that exposed just how little support it has in the Commons, as lawmakers assert their power ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU in March.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party joined the opposition in two votes that found ministers in contempt of parliament for failing to publish in full the legal advice on the Brexit deal.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said the decision was “incredibly disappointing,” as it broke centuries of convention of keeping such advice secret, but said the document was to be published yesterday.

Lawmakers also voted to approve an amendment tabled by former British attorney general Dominic Grieve, a Conservative, which allows parliament to determine what happens if the deal falls.

If May loses the vote next week, the government has 21 days to tell lawmakers what happens next.

Grieve’s amendment could allow lawmakers to amend that statement, raising the possibility they could demand a renegotiation, a second referendum or even stay in the EU.

May on Monday evening opened the first of five days of debate on the deal with a plea for lawmakers not to sabotage the result of months of negotiations with the EU.

The eight-hour debate, which continued until 1am, was characterized by heckling from all sides.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called May’s plan “a huge and damaging failure for Britain.”

There are few people who believe May’s deal will survive the vote, but the question of what happens then remains wide open.

Some Conservative lawmakers are pushing for a second referendum with a choice of staying in the EU, and they received an unexpected boost on Monday.

European Court of Justice Advocate General Campos Sanchez-Bordona said in a non-binding opinion that London has the right to halt Brexit without the agreement of other EU states.

However, May said that another vote would do nothing to settle bitter debates about Britain’s place in Europe.

“We cannot afford to spend the next decade as a country going around in circles,” she said.

Many lawmakers want May to renegotiate, but EU leaders have repeatedly said they would not reopen the deal.

Other lawmakers are pushing for Britain to stay in the European Economic Area, which would protect the economy, but would not fulfill the referendum promise of ending free movement of workers.

Some Conservatives believe Britain could leave without any deal at all — although a government assessment last week found this risked causing a major recession.

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