Rebels hope to kill off May's Brexit deal in "last-chance" vote
* Brexit rebels to vote against May's deal
* "What has changed?" DUP kingmakers ask
* Labour fears May's successor could renege
* Brexit deal vote in early June
(Updates with May comments)
By Kylie MacLellan and Andrew MacAskill
LONDON, May 15 (Reuters) - Brexit-supporting rebels in
British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party said on
Wednesday they would vote down her European Union divorce deal
when she brings it back to parliament next month.
Britain had been due to leave the EU on March 29 but
parliament has three times rejected the withdrawal agreement May
struck with Brussels. The United Kingdom is now scheduled to
leave, with or without a deal to smooth the exit, by Oct. 31.
Defeat in the vote would likely spell the end of May's
divorce deal and probably her premiership.
May will bring a Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which
implements the departure terms, to parliament for a vote in the
week beginning June 3, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said,
just as U.S. President Donald Trump begins a divisive state
visit to Britain.
"I have talked to colleagues, some of whom voted for it last
time, and they think it is dead and they will vote against it
this time," Peter Bone, a Conservative lawmaker and Brexit
supporter, told Talk Radio. "It seems absurd to bring it back.
It is the same thing again, again and again."
May, who became prime minister in the chaos that followed
the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted 52% to 48% to leave
the EU, is under pressure from some of her own lawmakers to set
a date for her departure.
As well as the Brexit deadlock, the Conservative Party
suffered major losses in local elections this month and is
trailing in opinion polls ahead of the May 23 European
Asked if she would resign if the bill was defeated, May told
reporters she was sure Members of Parliament (MPs) would
remember to respect the referendum result.
"When MPs come to look at that (bill), they will recognise
that we have a duty in parliament to deliver on the result of
the referendum and deliver Brexit," she said.
Lawmakers from the upper house of parliament had earlier
asked Barclay if this was "the last chance saloon" for May's
"If the House of Commons does not approve the WAB, then the
Barnier deal is dead in that form," Barclay told them, referring
to the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Barclay said that would leave parliament with the choice of
revoking the decision to leave the EU or exiting without a deal,
the default position if no divorce agreement can be reached.
"If the House (of Commons) has not passed the Withdrawal
Agreement Bill then there are growing voices in Europe, not
least the French, who want to move on to other issues," he said.
"WHAT HAS CHANGED?"
Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted to leave
the EU, politicians still disagree about when, how or even if
the divorce will take place.
Brexit supporters fear May's deal will keep the United
Kingdom trapped within the EU's orbit for years and that it
could ultimately pull the British province of Northern Ireland
towards the bloc.
Before her deal was defeated the last time, by 344 votes to
286 on March 29, May had promised to resign if it was passed. It
was voted down first in January and again in mid-March.
A sticking point has been the Irish backstop, an insurance
policy aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the border
between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.
"If the prime minister brings the withdrawal bill to the
Commons for a vote, the question will be 'what has changed'?"
asked Nigel Dodds, parliamentary leader of the Northern Irish
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up May's minority
"Unless she can demonstrate something new that addresses the
problem of the backstop then it is highly likely her deal will
go down to defeat once again," Dodds said.
A majority of members of the European Research Group, a
large Brexit-supporting faction in the Conservative Party, will
vote against May's deal, said Owen Paterson, a former minister.
As positions harden in parliament, with many wanting to
either leave the EU without a deal or to stop Brexit altogether,
May has turned to the opposition Labour Party, led by veteran
socialist Jeremy Corbyn, to negotiate a way out of the impasse.
But after more than four weeks of talks, the two party
leaders appear no closer to agreeing a common position, with
Labour saying May had not shifted her position and warning a
future Conservative leader could rip up any deal they struck.
"We have serious concerns about negotiating with a
government that is in the process of disintegration and what has
been said about what might happen if a new Tory (Conservative)
leadership is in charge," a Labour spokesman said.
However, the spokesman said while the party could not back
May's deal as it stood, he did not rule out abstaining in the
vote, which might allow it to muster enough support to pass.
(Additional reporting by John Irish in PARIS; Writing by Guy
Faulconbridge and Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
First Published: 2019-05-15 12:48:08
Updated 2019-05-15 20:02:44
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