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LONDON, Sept 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Lawmakers from British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party can vote against her Brexit plans without it being a vote of confidence in her government, the head of an influential group of pro-Brexit lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Brexiteers have said as many as 80 of May's 315 lawmakers could vote against her so-called Chequers plan, leaving the fate of the government and the Brexit deal in the hands of the opposition Labour Party.

If she loses that vote, Britain could leave the EU without a deal, an outcome some believe would spark a crisis of confidence that could cost her the premiership.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the European Research Group, a faction within May's Conservatives, plans to vote against the Chequers deal but said that does not mean May has to go.

"The vote on the legislation will not be a vote of confidence," Rees-Mogg, tipped by some as a possible successor to May, told a pro-Brexit event in parliament.

"We can vote down the bad Chequers proposals on Monday and support the government in a vote of confidence on Tuesday. They are separate things and trying to align them I think is a mistake. So we can carry on supporting the prime minister but we can oppose this policy until it is changed or collapses."

 

LONDON, August 19, 2018 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May could face trouble getting her Brexit deal approved by the British parliament before exit day unless she changes her proposals, the head of an influential group of pro-Brexit lawmakers said in an interview published on Sunday.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the European Research Group, a faction within May's Conservative Party, is strongly opposed to the government's so-called Chequers plan for Brexit and favours a clean break with the bloc on March 29 next year.

"If she sticks with Chequers, she will find she has a block of votes against her in the House of Commons," Rees-Mogg, tipped as a possible successor to May, told The Sunday Times newspaper, describing the Chequers proposals as "surrender" to the EU.

"Of course the Eurosceptics in parliament are not in a majority on all issues, but we will inevitably be in a majority on some of them and that will make the legislation extraordinarily difficult if it is based on Chequers."

The Chequers plan would keep Britain in a free trade zone with the EU for manufactured and agricultural goods. But some Brexit supporters have said it would mean parts of the British economy would still be subject to rules set in Brussels.

Both London and Brussels say they want to get a divorce deal at the October 18 EU Council, but diplomats think that target date is too optimistic. If May cannot get a deal by October, an agreement could be reached at the December 13/14 EU Council.

Rees-Mogg said letting it run to December would be "very risky", the newspaper reported, as that would only leave three months to get the deal approved by the British parliament.

That would mean the government "must come forward with a deal that Brexiteers like, because otherwise they might find it's much harder to get through parliament than they think", he was quoted as saying.

Parliament will have two votes: one on the Brexit deal and one on the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill.

May is betting that the fear of a so called "no-deal" scenario will push many Conservative and Labour lawmakers to support a deal, but the numbers are tight. In recent votes, May commanded a majority of around six votes on major Brexit issues.

Britain's Brexit minister Dominic Raab will travel to Brussels on Tuesday in a bid to pick up the pace of talks with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, but the government is also stepping up planning for a "no-deal" Brexit.

Rees-Mogg said he believed a "Canada-plus" deal, a free trade pact along the lines of the EU's 2016 agreement with Canada but with deeper ties given Britain's already closer trading links, could command a majority in parliament.

"If the prime minister came to the House of Commons with a Canada-plus style Brexit, people like me would say, 'Yes, that's all right,' and people who are strongly pro-European would say, 'Yes, that's better than leaving on World Trade Organisation terms,'” Rees-Mogg said. "So although that wouldn't be what people might choose, it could command a majority."

LONDON, July 30, 2018 (News Wires) - Half of British voters support a referendum to choose between leaving with a deal that the government may clinch with the European Union, leaving with no deal or staying in the EU, Sky News reported on Monday, citing its own poll.

The poll showed 40 per cent opposed such a vote, while 10 per cent did not know.

With less than eight months left until Britain is due to leave the EU, there is little clarity about how trade will flow as Prime Minister Theresa May, who is grappling with a rebellion in her party, struggles to strike a deal with the bloc.

May has stepped up planning for a so called “no-deal” Brexit that would see the world’s fifth largest economy crash out of the EU on March 29, 2019, a step that could spook financial markets and dislocate trade flows across Europe and beyond.

The Sky poll showed 78 per cent of voters thought May’s government was doing a bad job of negotiating Brexit, up 23 percentage points from March. Just 10 per cent thought the government was doing a good job.

May’s approval rating has fallen to 24 per cent, the poll showed. Voters were split on whether Brexit would be good or bad for the country: 40 per cent said it would be good and 51 per cent said it would be bad.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 per cent of the votes cast, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million voters, or 48.1 per cent of votes cast, backed staying. Many opinion polls were wrong about the result.

When asked to choose between three options - May’s deal, a no deal or staying in the EU - 48 per cent said they would prefer to stay in the EU, 27 per cent wanted to leave with no deal and 13 percent would opt for the government’s deal.

Eight per cent said they would not vote while 3 per cent did not know.

Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,466 Sky customers online 20-23 July 2018. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

London, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) - British Prime Minister Theresa May will publish details on Thursday of her long-awaited Brexit blueprint to restart talks with the EU, after facing down a revolt by eurosceptic ministers that could still unseat her.

In a policy paper, the government will outline proposals for a free trade area and a "common rule book" with the EU in goods after pressure from businesses to allow cross-border trade to continue as normal.

But Britain would still plan to leave the EU single market and customs union and set its own path on the far bigger services sector, hoping to be able to curb EU immigration and strike its own trade deals with third countries.

For the City of London the plan would propose "a looser partnership" with the EU rather than original proposals for "mutual recognition" of British and EU rules after Britain leaves the bloc in March, the Financial Times reported.

"We're making sure we've got a bespoke relationship with the EU," Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who was only appointed on Monday after his predecessor David Davis quit in protest over the plan, told BBC radio.

"It's a credible proposal. It's bold, it's ambitious but it's also pragmatic," he said.

The plan has caused outrage among eurosceptic members of May's Conservative party, and foreign minister Boris Johnson joined Davis in dramatically quitting this week in protest.

Their departures, followed by a clutch of junior aides, destabilised May's government and revived talk of a leadership challenge against her.

The prime minister is also likely to face some opposition in Brussels, where officials have repeatedly warned Britain to lower its expectations about how close ties can be.

"Of course the EU-27 is open to compromise but not one that can undermine the main pillars of the single market," an EU official said on condition of anonymity.

An EU source said: "We will look at these things constructively, and in a way that is helpful to the prime minister."

May has briefed leaders including EU President Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her plan and reported a positive response, although they are awaiting the detail.

Britain does not have long to argue its case -- both sides are aiming for a deal by October, to allow time for its ratification by the British and European parliaments.

Failure to agree would see Britain leave the EU without a deal, with the risk of huge economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.

The Financial Times has reported that one contingency plan being examined in case of a no-deal Brexit is using barges to help keep the lights on in Northern Ireland in case there is disruption to electricity imports from the Republic of Ireland.


LONDON, June 11, 2018 (News Wires) — Prime Minister Theresa May will urge her Conservative Party Monday to show unity when parliament votes on changes to her Brexit blueprint, a potential showdown that could reshape her approach to Britain’s departure from the EU.

Lawmakers will vote Tuesday and Wednesday this week on amendments to the EU withdrawal bill, legislation to sever ties with the bloc by essentially copying and pasting the bloc’s laws so that Britain’s legal system can function after March next year.

Her government is most vulnerable over an amendment, introduced by the upper house of parliament, to change the so-called “meaningful vote” on any final Brexit deal by handing the lower house more power to set the “direction” of the government if it rejects the agreement.

She will also be tested by rebels in her own party over her commitment to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, which will transform Britain’s future trading relationship for many years to come.

May is expected to address a meeting of Conservative members called the 1922 Committee later on Monday and will repeat her stance that the EU withdrawal bill is purely technical “to ensure a smooth and orderly transition as we leave”.

“The message we send to the country through our votes this week is important. We must be clear that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people,” she is expected to say.

“They want us to deliver on Brexit and build a brighter future for Britain as we take back control of our money, our laws and our borders.”

May is struggling to unite not only her party but her top team of ministers over how to leave the EU, particularly over the future customs arrangements which have pitted those wanting closer ties with the EU against others who demand a clean break.

She got backing over the weekend, when two Conservative lawmakers from either side of the debate—Amber Rudd, a former pro-EU campaigner and interior minister, and Iain Duncan Smith, a leading eurosceptic, joined forces to urge members to “march in lockstep behind the prime minister as she delivers on the vote”.

But with only 10 months left before Britain is due to leave, her government is under pressure from EU negotiators, businesses wanting clarity, and from many in the country to start taking decisions on its preferred future trading ties.

May’s decision to leave the customs union, which sets tariffs for goods imported into the EU, has also been criticised for raising the prospect of a “hard” border on the island of Ireland, which some fear could reignite sectarian violence.

She was forced into crisis meetings with her pro-Brexit ministers last week over fall back measures that would ensure no return to a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU.

The opposition Labour Party wants Britain to negotiate a new customs union with the EU and there are several Conservative lawmakers who want the close ties the, or a, customs union offers to offer certainty to businesses.

The government is trying to overturn 14 amendments handed down by the House of Lords, but may swallow a defeat on the customs union because of the vague wording which only requires ministers to report what efforts they had made to secure a customs union by the end of October.

LONDON, May 2, 2018 (Reuters) - Pro-Brexit members of parliament heaped pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday over her future customs plans with the European Union, calling on her to drop what some say is her preferred proposal.

May’s decision to leave the EU’s customs union, which sets tariffs for goods imported into the bloc, has become one of the main flashpoints in the Brexit debate in Britain, pitting companies and pro-EU campaigners against a vocal group of hardline eurosceptic MPs.

With the added pressure of trying to prevent the return of a “hard” border in Ireland and find something Brussels might agree to, May has delayed putting any firm plans for future customs arrangements on the table, hoping to plot a route that could at least please more than one side.

Pro-Brexit MPs called on May to drop one of her proposals which would see Britain essentially act as the EU’s tariff collector.

Members of the European Research Group, a group of Brexit MPs in May’s Conservative Party, said they were not issuing her an ultimatum with their demands, rather presenting their argument that such a customs partnership would not work.

“It is more of a statement of our position, with supporting arguments,” a member of the ERG said.

May is not only under pressure at home. She also faces increasingly urgent demands from Brussels to come up with a customs plan to avoid a return to a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. There are fears that reintroducing checks on what will be Britain’s only land border with the EU could reignite sectarian violence.

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