Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Blow for May as British lawmakers again reject Brexit deal

12 Mar 2019, 23:40 ( 10 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
British Prime Minister Theresa May. File Photo Xinhua.

British lawmakers on Tuesday voted down Prime Minister Theresa May's revised Brexit deal again in the House of Commons by a margin of 149 votes.

   After a day-long debate in the parliament chamber, lawmakers voted by 391 to 242 to reject the "improved" deal May presented after her last-minute talks with the European Union (EU) in Strasbourg, France.

   It was the second time MPs have rejected May's deal, but in the first vote in January she lost by a massive margin of 230, the biggest ever defeat in British political history.  

   ANOTHER MAJOR DEFEAT

   May, tired and struggling to talk with a soar throat, faced a crowded chamber in the House of Commons to urge MPs to back her deal.

   She won a series of legally binding changes to her original deal on Monday night, and had hoped she had done enough in late night talks with the EU to get her deal through the British parliament.

   Her hopes were shattered Tuesday when the government's attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, told MPs the legal risk of Britain being tied to the EU after Brexit "remained unchanged".

   He said new assurances secured by May in crunch talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker did reduce the risk that Britain could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained in a backstop arrangement the EU has insisted upon to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

   After the meaningful parliamentary vote, the prime minister said, "I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight."

   "I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available," May said.

   "Tonight we will table a motion for debate tomorrow to test whether the House supports leaving the European Union without a deal on 29th March," she said.

   Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said that May's Brexit deal is "clearly dead". He told the parliament that the prime minister has "run down the clock, and the clock has been run down on her".  

   WHAT IS NEXT?

   The crunch vote, which started at 1900 GMT, took place after members of the European Research Group (ERG), a main faction within May's Conservative Party, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up May's minority government, rejected her deal in spite of several changes secured on Monday night.

   The ERG said changes secured by the prime minister in Strasbourg on Monday did not deliver sufficient legally binding changes to the Irish backstop, and did not provide an exit mechanism over which Britain had control.

   The DUP also voted against her deal. A spokesman for the party said earlier Tuesday that "having carefully considered the published material, it is clear that the risks remain that the UK would be unable to lawfully exit the backstop were it to be activated."

   With Britain scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, the fate of Brexit now hangs in the balance, though MPs have been promised a vote on Wednesday on whether they want to rule out a no-deal option.

   British politicians have also been told that they will have a vote on Thursday on whether to seek an extension of the departure date.

   Immediately after the vote outcome was announced, Corbyn even went a step further by calling for a general election.