UK PM Theresa May pulls vote on Brexit deal, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

UK PM Theresa May pulls vote on Brexit deal

This article is more than 12 months old

She admits it would have been rejected 'by a significant margin'

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May abruptly pulled a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal yesterday, throwing Britain's plan to leave the European Union into chaos after admitting that she faced a rout.

Mrs May's move on the eve of a crucial parliamentary vote, scheduled for today, opens up an array of options for Britain, including a disorderly Brexit with no deal, another referendum on EU membership, or a last-minute renegotiation of Mrs May's deal.

Announcing the delay, Mrs May was laughed at by some lawmakers when she said there was broad support for the deal - the result of 18 months of tortuous negotiations - and that she had listened to different views.

"If we went ahead and held the vote, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin," Mrs May told Parliament, adding that she was confident it was the right deal.

"We will therefore defer the vote scheduled and not proceed to divide the House at this time," she said, adding that Britain would step up planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May accepted there was concern among lawmakers about the Northern Irish "backstop", an insurance policy aimed at avoiding a return to border checks between the British province and Ireland that could threaten a 1998 peace accord.

Her critics, both supporters of Brexit and its opponents, have rejected the open-ended backstop, which could require Britain to accept EU rules indefinitely, long after it gives up any say in drafting them.

She said the broader question was whether Parliament wanted to deliver on the will of the people for Brexit, or open up the divisions in the world's fifth largest economy with another referendum.

The sterling skidded to its weakest level since June last year, falling to US$1.2622 (S$1.73).

Mrs May's own position is uncertain and she could face a swift challenge.

Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Britain no longer had "a functioning government".

A small Northern Irish party that props up Mrs May's Conservative minority government described the situation as shambles.

Scottish nationalists pledged to support a vote to bring the government down.

The decision to halt the vote came just hours after the EU's top court ruled that Britain could unilaterally withdraw its decision to leave the bloc on March 29.

Mrs May told lawmakers if they wanted an alternative arrangement with the EU, they must be honest about the downsides of the other options.

"Does this House want to deliver Brexit?" Mrs May asked.

"If the House does, does it want to do so through reaching an agreement with the EU?

"If the answer is yes - and I believe that is the answer of the majority of this house - then we all have to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to make a compromise.

"Because there will be no enduring and successful Brexit without some compromise on both sides of the debate." - REUTERS