Published: Wed, December 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

British PM May postpones vote on Brexit deal, certain of defeat

British PM May postpones vote on Brexit deal, certain of defeat

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May must decide on Monday whether to put her Brexit deal to a vote in Parliament this week and risk a humiliating defeat that could plunge the U.K. into unprecedented political chaos.

May said it was "now clear" the backstop needs to be temporary, but that she was confident she could still win approval in parliament for her withdrawal plan with further assurances from the EU.

The backstop solution to the Irish border, which would see the United Kingdom remain in a customs union with the EU if no trade deal is done by the end of the transition period, is the issue which most concerns the deal's opponents.

And that, she added, was what she meant to do in the next few days.

Postponing the vote could give May more time to seek concessions from the European Union - even though both May and the bloc insist that the Brexit withdrawal agreement can't be changed.

In response, Labour leader attacked the PM for the delay, outlining that the deal was bad for the country before asking what was the point of May bringing back the "same deal" to MPs at a later date.

The vote would thus be deferred and not proceed "at this time", May told a packed and noisy Commons, giving no details as to when it might take place.

European Union court gives Britain way out? He suggested May threaten to withhold at least half of its divorce payment to the bloc in order to secure an alternative solution to the Irish border.

The news also caused the pound to tumble to its lowest level in 18 months. The Bank of England says it could fall toward 1-to-1 with the dollar.

"From listening to those views it is clear that while there is broad support for key aspects of the deal, on one issue, the Northern Ireland backstop, there remains widespread and deep concern".

Opposition lawmakers had shouted "resign" at the prime minister during her statement. May might now seek to return to European Union leaders to tweak the deal before asking for Parliament's approval once again.

The European Court of Justice today ruled Article 50 could be revoked - sparking a divide among the Tory ranks as Remain voters argued a second referendum was now vital.

The news broke just after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker insisted: "We have an agreement on the table".

The leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party - which has helped keep May's Conservatives in power through a confidence and supply agreement - said before the parliamentary session that she had told May to scrap the backstop in the Brexit deal.

The the EU's two other major institutions also rejected pressure to re-open negotiations despite May's negotiator, Olly Robbins, being seen in Brussels.

"We don't have a functioning government", he added.

May spoke at the weekend to Tusk, Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, raising speculation they offered some hope of further concessions. "This shambles can't go on - so how about it?"

News of the humiliating step leaked out minutes after the prime minister made an emergency phone call to her Cabinet. He said she still had the necessary authority to re-negotiate the deal. "Labour's alternative plan for a jobs first deal must take centre stage in any future talks with Brussels".

She added: "I believe it is important to honour the result of the referendum".

Olly Robbins, the prime minister's Brexit negotiator, arrived in Brussels on Monday. When the voting is taking place now, is not yet known.

This article is for general information purposes only.

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