May to put Withdrawal Agreement to third Commons vote

EPA-EFE//UK PARLIAMENTARY RECORDING UNIT

A grab from a handout video made available by the UK Parliamentary Recording Unit shows British Prime Minister Theresa May gestures during a debate at the House of Commons parliament in London,12 March 2019.

May to put Withdrawal Agreement to third Commons vote


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Less than 24 hours after suffering a second crushing defeat in as many days. UK Prime Minister Theresa May will make a third attempt to get her EU withdrawal deal through parliament in order to define the extension period that the UK is going to request from the EU during next week’s EU Summit.

May said that if the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement once again failed to pass through parliament, a lengthy delay to Brexit, in order to be able to negotiate a fresh deal, may be needed.

Her warning comes ahead of a Commons vote on whether to ask the EU for permission to delay Brexit beyond 29 March, the original date requested by the UK when Article 50 – which allows an EU member to leave the bloc – was activated.

Britain’s MPs on Wednesday evening voted to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances, a move that was described as “the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way,” by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose pointed comments were backed by Sabine Weyand, who added that the decision by the UK’s parliamentarians to resurrect plans that have already been rejected by Brussels shows that the British parliament is “divorced from reality”.

Speaking at a closed-door meeting of EU ambassadors, Weyand made reference to the Malthouse Compromise – a variant of plans rejected by Brussels numerous times on the grounds the technology required did not exist.

May’s latest motion tabled for debate sets out two options in the withdrawal process – a short, technical extension if a deal is approved before the European Council’s meeting this month, which would allow for the passage of domestic legislation to implement the deal; or a longer extension if a deal is not approved before the EU Council’s meeting. This would provide time for the May’s government and parliament to determine what course of action the UK should pursue.

The UK has acknowledged that if the delay extends into the summer, London is obligated to participate in the European elections on 22-26 May.

“During my consultations ahead of the European Council meeting,I will appeal to the EU-27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build a consensus around that goal,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is said to have asked May if she would be able to provide guarantees on who is going to negotiate the deal if the negotiations drag on beyond 2020. Juncker reportedly asked specifically about the possibility of having to work with former Secretary of State, Boris Johnson, who is widely regarded as a possible candidate for the British premiership when the United Kingdom hold its next scheduled general election in May 2021.

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