British Parliament remains divided on Brexit options

Agencia EFE
London, UK Published: Apr 02, 2019, 06:07 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Half of the eight motions submitted to a vote last Thursday were brought up again as the United Kingdom's political class continued its desperate search for a way to avoid leaving the European Union on April 12 without an agreement in place.

All four alternative Brexit proposals considered Monday by the UK House of Commons went down to defeat, albeit by narrower margins than in last week's initial vote.

Half of the eight motions submitted to a vote last Thursday were brought up again as the United Kingdom's political class continued its desperate search for a way to avoid leaving the European Union on April 12 without an agreement in place.

As was the case the first time around, the motion that came closest to passing was one calling for the UK to negotiate a permanent customs union with the EU, which was defeated by just three votes, 276-273, after losing by eight votes last week.

Garnering the largest number of votes - 280 - was a proposal to require the eventual Withdrawal Agreement to be subject to approval in a referendum, but 292 Commons member gave it a thumbs-down.

That motion lost 295-268 on the first reading last week.

An initiative from Conservative member Nick Boles for "Common Market 2.0," lost 282-261, an improvement from last week's 283-188, but not enough to stop him from resigning from his party in frustration.

The most radical of the motions, which would have allowed Parliament to revoke Brexit in the event of no-deal, was defeated 292-191.

Sandwiched between the first and second round of "indicative" (non-binding) votes on Brexit alternatives was last Friday's third "meaningful" vote on the withdrawal agreement Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with EU leaders, rejected by lawmakers for the third time.

The outcome of Monday's session is likely to bolster May's determination to seek a fourth vote on her deal.

Her minister for Brexit, Stephen Barclay, said following the latest votes that the Commons can still prevent a no-deal withdrawal on April 12 by approving the prime minister's initiative this week.

May's deal, which lost by a record 230-vote margin on the first occasion, failed by a margin of 58 votes last Friday.

Noting that May has been allowed to bring her proposal before the House of Commons three times, the leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, argued Monday for another vote on the Brexit alternatives.

"If it is good enough for the prime minister to have three chances at her deal, then I suggest it's possible the House should have a chance to consider again the options we had before us ... so the House can succeed where the prime minister has failed - in presenting a credible economic relationship with Europe for the future that prevents us crashing out with no deal," he said.

May plans to meet with her Cabinet on Tuesday to consider the next steps.

Britons voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent in favour of Brexit in a June 2016 referendum. May and the-then Conservative majority in Parliament adopted legislation in 2017 setting a March 29, 2019, deadline to leave the EU.

But after the House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement for a second time, May asked the 27 EU governments to give London more time.

Brussels offered a delay to May 22 if Parliament finally accepted the withdrawal agreement. In the absence of parliamentary approval, the EU gave the UK until April 12 to "indicate a way forward."

Several leading Brexit hardliners in May's party, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, threw their support behind her deal after she pledged to resign and make way for a new prime minister.

But the Northern Ireland-based Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up the minority Conservative government, remains opposed, saying that it would prefer to delay Brexit for a year to accepting the withdrawal agreement.

The DUP, and many Conservatives oppose the provision of the Withdrawal Agreement known as the Irish backstop, aimed at averting the establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Critics of the backstop say it could trap the UK in a permanent customs union with the EU.

Read in App