Posted by News Express | 16 November 2018 | 777 times
Prime Minister Theresa May battled on Thursday to save a draft divorce deal with the European Union after her Brexit secretary and other ministers quit in protest at an agreement they say will trap Britain in the bloc’s orbit for years.
Just over 12 hours after May announced that her team of top ministers had agreed to the terms of the draft agreement, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and work and pensions minister Esther McVey quit, saying they could not support it.
Their departure, and the resignations of two junior ministers, shakes May’s divided government and her Brexit strategy, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
Some lawmakers in London openly questioned whether May’s government will survive.
Raab is the second Brexit secretary to quit over May’s plans to leave the EU, the biggest shift in British policy in more than 40 years. By leaving now, some suggested that Raab could be positioning himself as a possible successor to May.
But the prime minister showed little sign of backing down in parliament, where she warned lawmakers they now faced a stark decision.
“The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated,” she said.
She acknowledged that hammering out an agreement with her cabinet was not “a comfortable process” but said those lawmakers who believed she could get a deal that did not include a backstop arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland were wrong.
Sterling plunged, set for its second biggest drop this year on the opposition to the draft agreement.
British financial regulators held a call with major banks asking for feedback on market conditions after the pound and financial stocks sank, sources said. One source said the call was a direct request from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. The Bank of England declined to comment.
In parliament, lawmakers from her Conservative Party and the opposition parties took turns to rubbish the draft deal, a sign May faces an all but impossible task to get the agreement through the House of Commons.
Many criticized the draft deal, agreed with the EU on Tuesday, for making Britain a “vassal” state, beholden to the bloc’s rules even after leaving in March next year.
Others said an agreement on the so-called backstop would tear Britain apart, leaving Northern Ireland all but in the EU’s single market.
It took an hour of parliamentary questions before she was asked a friendly, rather than hostile, one, with a Conservative lawmaker saying May had done the best she could.
It was the backstop arrangement, which would see Britain and the EU establishing a single customs territory, that spurred most of the criticism and the resignations of her senior ministers.
“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election,” Raab said.
Less than five months until Britain leaves the EU on March 29, the resignations put May’s Brexit strategy in doubt.
EU leaders are ready to meet on Nov. 25 to sign off on the divorce deal, or Withdrawal Agreement, but French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe summed up the uncertainty when he said events in London raised concerns about whether it would be ratified.
One eurosceptic lawmaker in May’s Conservative Party said more colleagues were either putting in letters to trigger a no confidence vote in her leadership or were increasingly minded to do so. A challenge is triggered if 48 Conservatives write such letters. May could be toppled if 158 of her 315 lawmakers vote against her.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party said the government was “falling apart”. (NAN)
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