Brentry Or Brexit?
British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a confidence vote by a 200-117 margin on December 12 after at least 48 Tory MPs submitted ‘letters of no confidence’ in her leadership following her decision to cancel the December 11 crunch vote in the House of Commons on Britain’s European Union (EU) withdrawal agreement. Although Prime Minister May has proved her ability to survive a political crisis once again, the development indicates that her time in office is limited.
On December 11, the premier delayed the critical parliamentary vote on her proposal to leave the EU in face of broad opposition. She made the move a couple of hours after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a statement, saying that Britain could cancel its decision, if it wanted. The ECJ also said that there was no need for the UK to get the EU’s approval.
PM Theresa May
The House of Commons of the British Parliament was scheduled to vote on whether to approve the Brexit deal on December 11. However, PM May postponed the voting as the MPs had been expected to reject the EU withdrawal agreement negotiated by the premier. The PM told the Lower House of the Parliament that the vote would be deferred to a later date as she required time to seek “further assurances” from EU leaders about the application of the Irish border backstop.
As expected, the Oppositions strongly criticised PM May for delaying the vote, with Labour Party Chief Jeremy Corbyn stressing: “We don’t have a functioning government.” It is to be noted that the British Pound plunged against the US Dollar and the Euro after the PM delayed the parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal. Sterling fell 1.6% against the Euro, to EUR 1.1007, and dropped 1.57% against the greenback to hit USD 1.2526!
The opposition Labour Party and some members of the ruling Conservative Party are against a part of the deal, as they are still not satisfied with rules regarding Northern Ireland. Both Britain and the EU are committed to ensuring that no hard border will go up between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Britain’s exit. According to PM May’s accord, Britain could remain inside the EU’s customs area indefinitely in order to prevent that, thus, eliminating the need for customs controls. Although the premier views it as a temporary solution, hard-line Britons are of the opinion that only a solid break with Brussels will allow Britain to enjoy the freedom to strike trade deals and set its own rules from immigration to the environment.
PM May further assured the parliamentarians that she would discuss this particular issue with the EU leaders and would try to change the rule. She made the assurance despite the EU’s decision not to amend the rule (as both London and Brussels had finalised the draft accord). As per the agreement, Britain will leave the EU on March 29, 2019.
Chancellor Merkel with PM May
On December 11, the British PM undertook a whistle-stop tour of The Hague, Berlin and Brussels to renegotiate her deal with the European leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who met PM May for lunch in Berlin – told her party’s MPs that no one wanted the backstop to be in effect forever. The chancellor said: “Maybe there might be a way of making that a bit clearer somehow, to reassure MPs in Westminster.”
With the EU leaders insisting that there is no scope for fundamental changes in the draft accord, British political analysts blasted the PM for wasting her time in Europe. The Downing Street issued a statement on December 12 morning, saying that the PM would put the Brexit deal to the vote before a self-imposed deadline of January 21. But, the mutinous mood at Westminster has raised the stakes.
Meanwhile, experts opine that the British premier’s decision to defer the voting has raised the chances that Britain could leave the EU with no agreement. They warn that this option risks widespread economic disruption, saying that it throws both her government and her plans for Britain’s exit from the bloc into disarray. The next three months will be very crucial for Britain and its future!
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