UK PM May heads for Europe in bid to save Brexit deal
British PM seeking support for changes to deal
LONDON : British Prime Minister Theresa May will seek German Chancellor Angela Merkel's support for changes to the Brexit deal in a last-minute bid to avoid a disorderly exit that would block the arteries of trade and roil financial markets.
Less than four months until Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, Brexit was plunged into chaos on Monday when Mrs May acknowledged that British lawmakers would not accept her current deal.
Amid demands for a national election, ridicule and blunt warnings that her eleventh-hour bid for a changed deal was in vain, Mrs May pledged to seek EU support for changes to make it more palatable to lawmakers.
MPs will vote on her Brexit deal before Jan 21, her spokesman said yesterday, after the initial vote was pulled due to lack of support.
"The government will ensure that the matter is brought back to the Commons before January 21," the spokesman said.
Support for another referendum has been rising in recent months.
The EU said it was ready to discuss how to smooth ratification in Britain, but that neither the withdrawal agreement nor the contentious Irish backstop would be renegotiated.
Mrs May met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for breakfast yesterday and followed this up with a visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Brexit will be discussed at a previously scheduled two-day EU summit starting tomorrow.
Without a deal, the options for the world's fifth largest economy include a last-minute agreement, probably struck next year, another EU referendum or national election, or a potentially disorderly Brexit without a deal.
The ultimate outcome will shape Britain's US$2.8 trillion (S$3.84 trillion) economy, have far-reaching consequences for the unity of the United Kingdom and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centres.
Mrs May said the deeper question was whether parliament wanted to deliver on the people's will from the 2016 referendum, or open up divisions with another national vote.
"If you take a step back, it is clear that the House faces a much more fundamental question," Mrs May said. "Does this House want to deliver Brexit?"
Many business chiefs fear a chaotic Brexit, which they say would weaken the West and spook financial markets.
"We view the situation with a mixture of worry and hope,"one FTSE CEO said. "The hope comes from the fact that it's now such chaos it gets called off."
As investors and allies tried to work out the ultimate destination for Britain and its economy, rebel lawmakers in Mrs May's Conservative Party said she had to go.
"If we can't go forwards with her deal ... then I'm afraid the only way to change the policy is to change the prime minister and I really think it's her duty to go," Brexit-supporting Conservative lawmaker Steve Baker said.- REUTERS