Contentious Brexit Divorce Agreement Triggers Ministerial Resignations
15 November 2018, 17:48
There will be difficult days ahead, Britains Prime Minister Theresa May said on the steps of Downing Street when announcing she had secured the backing of her Cabinet for a contentious Brexit divorce agreement after an impassioned and at times angry five-hour meeting, VOA news reports.
Those words quickly turned out to be an understatement on Thursday.
Shortly after she spoke her Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, who helped draft the agreement, resigned in protest, saying he could not in good conscience support the terms of a deal hardline Brexiteers argue places Britain in a subordinate relationship with the European Union, one the country wouldnt be able to quit without Brussels consent.
A junior minister preceded Raabs departure and three ministers followed as furious Brexiteers plotted openly to oust May as Conservative leader, delivering serious blows to her authority.
Now, the future of a deal thats taken more than a year to negotiate and the fate of the Conservative government itself is in doubt.
It also raised questions about calling a snap general election, which could see a Labor win, or holding a second Brexit referendum that could overturn the original vote to leave the European Union.
Another possibility is with the clock ticking towards a formal departure from the EU in 134 days, Britain may end up crashing out of the bloc without any exit deal, an outcome analysts and business leaders say would roil Britains economy.
Facing the House of Commons on Thursday, May came under sharp attacks from her own ranks, who claim the deal amounts to a treaty of submission, and opposition lawmakers.
She insisted the agreement is the best deal Britain can get. The draft EU agreement would see Britain remain in a customs union for several years with the European Union after it exits the bloc in March, but with an unclear legal path to quitting the customs arrangement while a fuller, but so far ill-defined trade deal is negotiated.
May told a packed House of Commons, which was alternately somber and uproarious, that she was acting in the national interest and the draft treaty will ensure we leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. Her remark drew laughter.
She said, I dont pretend this has been a comfortable process or that either we or the EU are entirely happy with all of the arrangements that have been included. She warned that voting against the deal would take us back to square one and it would mean more uncertainty and more division and the failure to deliver on the decision of the British people that we should leave the EU.
May insisted: The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, or risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, said May was offering a false choice between no deal and this deal, which he said represents a huge and damaging failure. He added, After two years of bungled negotiations the government has produced a botched deal which does not have the backing of parliament or the country as a whole.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 15, 2018
The leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Ian Blackford, said May looks desperate and defeated and is trying to sell a deal that is dead in the water.
But the beleaguered prime minister appears determined to plow on.
Several Euro-skeptic Conservative lawmakers were reported to have submitted letters to party authorities in the parliament demanding a confidence vote on her leadership, saying it was time to change leader. Forty-eight letters would trigger a vote automatically.
The quirky largely Protestant Northern Ireland party Mays minority government relies on to stay in office has said it will vote against the draft Brexit agreement when it formally comes before Parliament next month. Few analysts believe May will have sufficient votes to get the agreement approved.
As the political drama played out Thursday in London, the European Commission said EU leaders will meet November 25 for a summit to rubber-stamp the withdrawal agreement. But officials in Brussels admitted the plan could go awry depending on events in London.
They said British negotiators would get a frosty reception if they return looking for major amendments to the proposed deal, arguing several EU national governments believe too much was given away to Britain already.