March 19, 2019

Brexit hangs in balance over tweaked deal

14 March 2019, 11:26 | Devin Moran

Theresa May pleads with MPs to vote for her Brexit deal

No Majority in British Parliament for Second Brexit Referendum: Reuters Analysis

The United Kingdom's labyrinthine crisis over European Union membership is approaching its finale with an array of possible outcomes, including a delay, a last-minute deal, a no-deal Brexit, a snap election or even another referendum.

Residents, businesses and politicians across Britain and the bloc were bracing for a chaotic Brexit after British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit agreement for a second time by a decisive 391-242 vote on Tuesday.

May flew to Strasbourg, France, late Monday for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

In a written legal opinion, Cox said that if UK-EU negotiations became stalled through "intractable differences", Britain would have "no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol's arrangements, save by agreement". "It says that we will work together, in good faith, in pursuit of a future relationship that ensures that the objectives of the protocol, particularly the need to avoid a hard border, are met".

She said it was "time to pivot, not to dig in" and said the risk of extension was that May would "do more of the same, running round in circles on the backstop and running down the clock".

Just 18 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, there is still no ratified divorce deal and talks with the bloc have stalled as May tries to break the political deadlock in London.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the only talks that mattered now were "between the government in London and the Parliament in London", indicating very little scope for concessions from the EU side ahead of Tuesday's vote.

May had announced three documents - a joint instrument, a joint statement and a unilateral declaration - which she said were aimed at addressing the Irish backstop.

The Times urged MPs to consider the deal against a wider backdrop of "global instability" - and said it is "farcical" that they will vote on a package "they will have had just hours to assess".

Juncker believed "it is high time to complete the withdrawal process in line with the wishes expressed by the government of the United Kingdom and to move on as swiftly as possible to the negotiation of our future partnership".

Following the publication of document on no-deal, the House of Commons will be asked to vote on whether it wants to leave without a deal.

No Majority in British Parliament for Second Brexit Referendum: Reuters Analysis
Will Brexit happen? When? And how? Nail-biting final days for business

"He has put forward constructive additions, now we wait for a credible response from the United Kingdom to ensure an orderly Brexit", he said on Saturday.

The border issue has been one of the thorniest in Brexit talks.

Britain said on Wednesday it would eliminate import tariffs on a wide range of goods and avoid a so-called hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit.

If the deal is voted down once again, on the following two days the lawmakers are expected to discuss and vote on two amendments.

Tory MP George Freeman said Mrs May should quit after Brexit rather than have a "panicked change of leader now", telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I hope the Prime Minister can get withdrawal through and then I do think we need to choose a new leader for a new generation with a new vision of a conservativism that can make sense of Brexit and reinspire and reunite the nation".

The DUP s support is crucial if the deal is to pass the House of Commons.

"The PM and the negotiating teams are focused on making progress so we can secure Parliament's support for the deal", a Downing Street spokesperson said on Monday.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers said they would read the fine print before deciding how to vote on Tuesday.

May has promised that if Members of Parliament reject her divorce treaty, they will get a vote on whether to take the country out of the European Union into legal limbo - an option previous ballots have shown they will reject.

"We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29 or shortly thereafter and it is very important we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit". "It would be much better if we could have found some sort of decision".

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