UK PM May tries to plot course out of Brexit mess, Latest World News - The New Paper

UK PM May tries to plot course out of Brexit mess

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European Union's Chief Brexit negotiator says Britain has to accept PM May's stalled deal if it wants to leave bloc in orderly way

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was chairing several hours of cabinet meetings yesterday in an attempt to plot a course out of the Brexit maelstrom as she comes under pressure to either leave the European Union without a deal or call an election.

Nearly three years since the UK voted to leave the EU in a shock referendum result, British politics is in crisis and it is unclear how, when or if it will ever leave the club it joined in 1973.

Mrs May's deal has been defeated three times by the lower house of the British parliament which failed on Monday to find a majority of its own for any alternative to her deal. She is expected to try to put her deal to a fourth vote this week.

The deadlock has already delayed Brexit for at least two weeks beyond the planned departure date of March 29 and Mrs May chaired a cabinet meeting in Downing Street in a bid to find a way out of the maze.

"Over the last days a no-deal scenario has become more likely, but we can still hope to avoid it," the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in Brussels.


Mr Barnier said Britain could still accept the stalled deal negotiated by Mrs May, reiterating it was "the only way" for Britain to leave the bloc in an orderly way.

If Mrs May cannot get her deal ratified by parliament then she has a choice between leaving without a deal, calling an election or asking the EU for a long delay to negotiate a Brexit deal with a much closer relationship with the bloc.

"I hope that we can still find a solution. The British parliament has said itself that it doesn't want a disorderly Brexit," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

The third defeat of Mrs May's withdrawal agreement on Friday - the day Britain was originally scheduled to leave the EU - has left the weakest British leader in a generation facing a spiralling crisis.

Investors and diplomats are in despair at the chaos and such is the volatility of Brexit news from London that some traders have stepped away from sterling - which has see-sawed on Brexit news since the 2016 referendum.

"There is professional bewilderment that the motherland of common sense is in this place," one European diplomat said.

The British electorate, its two major parties and Mrs May's cabinet are all divided over Brexit and she risks ripping her Conservative Party apart if she tilts towards a closer post-Brexit relationship with the EU or leaving without a deal. If she backs or rejects such a move, she could face resignations.

With Brexit stalled, Parliament has been trying to come up with an alternative but has thus far failed.

The option which came closest to getting a majority in parliament on Monday was a proposal to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, which was defeated by three votes. A proposal to hold a confirmatory referendum on any deal got the most votes, but was defeated by 292-280.

Mr Barnier said the EU was ready to accept Britain staying in the EU's customs union or a relationship akin to the one the EU has with Norway. - REUTERS