Thu, Mar 14, 2019 - Page 7 News List

UK lawmakers to vote on ‘no deal’

AFP, LONDON

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

British lawmakers were yesterday to vote on whether the nation should leave the EU without a deal in just more than two weeks after overwhelmingly rejecting a draft divorce agreement.

The British House of Commons is expected to vote against a “no deal” Brexit, although this could still happen on March 29 unless it can agree on what should happen instead.

Legislators on Tuesday rejected for a second time the withdrawal deal negotiated by British Prime Minister Theresa May, despite her obtaining last-minute assurances from EU officials.

Some euroskeptics are now pressing to leave with no deal, but May said that this scenario could cause “significant economic shock” — and many lawmakers agree with her.

If the “no deal” option is voted down, the government is planning another Commons vote today on whether to request a Brexit delay.

“Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face,” May said. “The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension. This House will have to answer that question.”

“Does it wish to revoke Article 50?” she said, referring to the Brexit process. “Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal, but not this deal?”

British media have reported that May could make a desperate attempt at a third vote on her deal, hoping that Brexit hardliners would fall in line.

However, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the text was “clearly dead” and urged her to back his own plan for closer economic ties with the EU.

A group of lawmakers yesterday was to put forward an alternative proposal to delay Brexit until May 22 and agree a series of interim agreements with the EU lasting until 2021.

However, European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the EU Michel Barnier said that Brussels had nothing more to offer and must now brace for the possibility of a messy divorce.

“The EU has done everything it can to help get the withdrawal agreement over the line,” he tweeted after Tuesday’s result. “The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our ‘no-deal’ preparations are now more important than ever before.”

After British lawmakers in January first rejected the 585-page Brexit deal, May promised changes to its hated backstop plan, an arrangement intended to keep open the border with Ireland.

Weeks of talks failed to make a breakthrough, but May made a late dash to Strasbourg, France, to meet EU leaders on the eve of the vote.

She announced she had secured “legally binding changes” to the backstop, which would keep Britain in the EU’s customs union if and until a new way was found to avoid frontier checks.

However, hours later Attorney General for England and Wales Geoffrey Cox said these additions would not completely allay lawmakers’ fears of being trapped in the arrangement indefinitely.

Brexit-supporting legislators swiftly declared they would not support the deal.

Some euroskeptics did change their mind, urging their colleagues not to risk everything, but the margin of Tuesday’s defeat was 149 votes, not significantly smaller than the historic 230-vote thumping the plan first suffered on Jan. 15.

If lawmakers yesterday voted against a no-deal exit and want to postpone Brexit, the other 27 EU nations would need to agree.

Their leaders are to meet in Brussels for a summit on Thursday and Friday next week.

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