Theresa May faces heavy Brexit defeat in parliament, eurosceptics warn

UK

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minster Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces a heavy defeat in parliament on Tuesday because she has so far secured no major changes from the European Union, the leaders of two major eurosceptic factions in parliament said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech during her visit in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, Britain March 8, 2019. Christopher Furlong/Pool via REUTERS

Just 19 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, May’s is scrambling – so far unsuccessfully – to secure last-minute changes to an EU exit agreement before a vote on Tuesday on whether to approve the deal.

If she fails, lawmakers are expected to force May to seek a delay to Brexit that some fear could see the 2016 decision to leave the bloc reversed. Others argue that without a delay Britain faces chaos if it leaves without a deal on March 29.

Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s minority government, and Steve Baker, a leading figure in the large eurosceptic faction of her Conservative party, warned “the political situation is grim”.

“An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizeable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons,” they wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Sunday Times said May was battling to save her job as aides were considering persuading her to offer to resign in a bid to get the deal approved. The newspaper also said cabinet ministers have spoken about whether to insist she goes as early as this week.

Parliament rejected May’s deal by a record margin in January, prompting the British leader to return to Brussels in search of changes to address the so-called Irish backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Many British lawmakers object to the policy on the grounds that it could leave Britain subject to EU rules indefinitely and cleave Northern Ireland away from the rest of the country.

But, May’s attempts to get the clause rewritten have so far failed to yield any result, with EU negotiators unwilling to meet her demands, and Britain rejecting a compromise offer.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party should support staying in the EU if there is a second referendum, the party’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said on Sunday.

“If there’s a public vote that would operate as a lock, if you like, on any deal that Theresa May get through. If that is the position, then in my view, the default ought to be ‘remain’,” Starmer told Sky News.

However, Starmer said the party would not be seeking to secure support in parliament for a second referendum on Tuesday.

Writing by William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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