May to Reject Second Brexit Referendum Plan
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has given herself another four weeks to save the Brexit deal she says is still the only way to avoid a chaotic split from the European Union.
Last week, May called off a parliamentary vote scheduled for Dec. 11 on the withdrawal agreement after concluding it would be defeated amid overwhelming opposition from politicians across the House of Commons. She’s still hoping for more concessions from the EU, and on Monday announced that the deal will finally be put to a vote in the week of Jan. 14.
But that wasn’t good enough for everyone.
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had evaded accountability in Parliament for too long. He proposed a motion of no confidence in May as prime minister, citing her “failure” to give the Commons a chance to vote on the divorce package she’s negotiated.
Still, it’s highly unlikely it would pass. The pro-Brexit European Research Group of Conservative politicians, who last week triggered a confidence vote in May over her leadership of the Tory party, said they would support her against the Labour motion.
“If we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, then we risk leaving the EU with no deal,” May said in Parliament. “Avoiding no deal is only possible if we can reach an agreement or if we abandon Brexit entirely. Do not imagine that if we vote this down, a different deal is going to miraculously appear.”
The U.K. is due to leave the EU in three months’ time, but there’s so far no sign that the British Parliament will accept the divorce terms May has negotiated with the bloc. Without a deal, Britain will tumble out of the EU on March 29. That could hit the pound, crash house prices and cause disruption for millions of citizens and businesses.
May is pinning her hopes on securing a new legal assurance from the EU that the most contentious part of the Brexit agreement won’t apply indefinitely -- the backup plan for the Irish border. She was rebuffed at a summit in Brussels last Friday.
May said talks with the EU will continue into January in the hope of finding a solution that will win over politicians in Parliament to support the agreement.
The premier was asked if it would be wiser to seek an extension of the Brexit deadline rather than leaving with no deal in March when the two-year “Article 50” process -- under which countries legally exit the EU -- runs out.
“I don’t think it’s right to be seeking that extension of Article 50,” she said.
Her answer -- saying in the present tense that she doesn’t think it’s “right” to delay Brexit -- risks prompting more questions about her intentions. It didn’t sound like she was fully ruling it out.