Prime Minister Theresa May faced heavy opposition against her Brexit deal as cabinet ministers said she is pushing ahead with a Tuesday’s crucial House of Commons vote despite predictions it’s headed for defeat.
Lawmakers from the across Parliament used television interviews Sunday to call on May to return to Brussels to renegotiate her withdrawal agreement with the European Union. Among them were former foreign secretary and high-profile Brexit advocate Boris Johnson, who said the current deal gives power to other member states to “blackmail” the UK and suggested she threaten to withhold some divorce payments to the bloc.
Another opponent was Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party -- the small group of 10 lawmakers propping up her Tory government -- who said if the current agreement passes the house, she can no longer count on their support.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said in a BBC interview that there are no plans to delay the parliamentary vote on the European Union Withdrawal Bill. While he said that the government is prepared to leave the EU without a deal, he said it would be “difficult” and “undesirable,” calling on his colleagues to mitigate the risk by opting for May’s proposal.
Barclay spoke after the Sunday Times reported some aides and ministers expect an announcement Monday that May will delay the vote in order to convince EU leaders, meeting in Brussels, to relax the terms.
That won’t be possible, said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“The British have decided to leave. It’s too bad, it’s regrettable, but it’s a fact,” he said on French radio station RTL. The current deal “is the most that we could offer. The talks are closed. Now it’s up to the British to decide.”
Even as May seeks to salvage an agreement, the question of her own future is increasingly coming into the spotlight. The opposition Labour Party is ready to form a minority government as soon as Wednesday morning, if needed, lawmaker Jon Trickett told Sky News. Meanwhile Johnson, former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab all refused to rule out standing against her for leadership of the Conservatives.
Brexit Minister Kwasi Kwarteng denied there was a possibility that the party might split over the withdrawal deal, but conceded on BBC Radio 5 Live that “one or two” more lawmakers might quit. Will Quince, parliamentary private secretary to the defense minister, said Sunday he resigned because he can’t support a deal with a so-called backstop arrangement that will keep Britain negotiating with Brussels indefinitely.
May, in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, said her party members risk helping the Labour Party’s push for power if they defeat her accord. According to the Telegraph, government whips gave Conservative lawmakers until midday Sunday to say how they’ll vote.
Some of her more loyal ministers are already planning for a new referendum, with government officials discussing two versions of a potential new public vote, the Sunday Times said.
The first would feature a straight choice between May’s deal and staying in the bloc, while the second would ask voters to choose between leaving the EU and remaining, but with a supplementary question if the Leave camp wins - would they prefer the existing deal or a Brexit on World Trade Organization terms?
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