UK PM in Last-Minute Push for Brexit 03/18 08:16
Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third
time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. Her
aim is to have the deal agreed before EU leaders meet Thursday for a summit in
May's goal is to win over Northern Ireland's small, power-brokering
Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP's 10 lawmakers prop up May's Conservative
government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop
their opposition to the deal.
Still, May faces a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the
agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149
votes last week.
Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see
what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May's deal.
"No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining
in the European Union," he told LBC radio.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday he saw "cautious signs of
encouragement" that the deal might make it through Parliament this week.
After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to
seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on
the scheduled exit date of March 29 -- although the power to approve or reject
a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British
May is likely to ask for an extension at the Brussels summit, and EU leaders
say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the
"We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason
supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?"
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. "The longer it
is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be."
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: "We are not against
an extension in Belgium, but the problem is -- to do what?"
Opposition to May's deal centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no
hard border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the
U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship
is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to
bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could
lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the
Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party
that Britain could not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.
May has said that if her deal is approved by Parliament this week, she will
ask the EU to delay Brexit until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve
the necessary legislation. If it isn't, she will have to seek a longer
extension that could mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the
May said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that failure to approve the
deal meant "we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever."
"The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs (Members of
the European Parliament) three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears
thinking about," she wrote.
But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris
Johnson refused to support her deal.
Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, used his column in the Daily Telegraph to
argue that the backstop left the U.K. vulnerable to "an indefinite means of
blackmail" by Brussels.