Theresa May on Tuesday made her final big gamble as Prime Minister as she laid out a new plan to get Parliament to back her Brexit divorce package with the aim to “find common ground in Parliament.” The British prime minister’s 10-point plan to build a cross-party consensus offered the prospect of a second Brexit referendum and other concessions to entice opposing MPs to accept her deal. She described the 100-page withdrawal agreement bill as “the only way to deliver Brexit”, and she announced the bill would be tabled in the first week of June. According to commentators, this is likely to be her final attempt to get a Brexit deal passed in the Parliament, failure of which will most probably lead to leadership change.
The 10-point “new and improved” Brexit deal offered some interesting points. The most ambitious part of the offer involved plans to give lawmakers a vote on whether to hold a confirmatory referendum if her deal is passed. On customs, two options were offered to lawmakers: a close customs partnership between the UK and the bloc, and a temporary customs union on goods until the next general election. To guarantee that Britain maintains EU standards of protection, she promised a new workers’ rights bill, angering Eurosceptic Conservatives. She also promised that the final say on the negotiating strategy for a UK-EU trade deal would be given to the Parliament, providing concession to Labour backbenchers Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell.
The proposal of “confirmatory vote” was made to appease the Labour party. However, MPs rejected the offer and contended that they would prefer to amend the withdrawal agreement bill themselves to include a second referendum and would reject this offer once and for all. Theresa May asked the parties to make a compromise. However, MPs from across the political spectrum have rejected her deal, and some Conservative MPs have even called for her to resign immediately to save from another humiliation in the Parliament. Even May has admitted that if her proposal is not approved, a general election or second referendum would be held, which could mean no Brexit at all.
Before the speech, a divided cabinet had approved the new package. Concessions like a vote on a temporary customs union and the second referendum plan were opposed by Eurosceptic ministers. Conservative Brexiteers were also miffed with Theresa May over other compromises to appease Labour, including her acceptance to follow the rules laid by the EU on workers’ rights, the environment, goods and foodstuffs.
Further Damping May’s hope of getting her deal passed, the new proposal was unanimously opposed by the European Research Group of pro-hard Brexit Tory MPs, who called the bill “dead on arrival.” Another senior member of the group and former Brexit minister, Steve Baker, remarked that the prime minister’s speech today had worsened the situation. Dominic Raab, former Brexit secretary, said that the whole process is further disturbed due to May’s proposal to allow a second referendum or customs union.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, indicated Labour would oppose the new plan and said May’s government is unable to deliver on its commitments. Further weakening Mrs May’s grip on power, Nigel Dodds, leader of the coalition partner Democratic Unionist party, also criticised the proposal.
With an increasing number of MPs from her Conservative party calling on her to resign, Mrs May is under growing pressure to pull the parliamentary vote on her revamped Brexit deal.
After briefly rallying on Tuesday, as the prime minister offered MPs a “new deal”, the pound fell 0.3 per cent on the day to trade around $1.2660, its lowest level since early January, reflecting continued political uncertainty as Theresa May faced a wall of opposition against her deal.
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