Thu | Feb 27, 2020

United Kingdom in political turmoil over draft Brexit deal

Published:Thursday | November 15, 2018 | 10:05 AM
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the Houses of Parliament in London.

LONDON (AP) — It has been a most eventful day in British politics as Prime Minister Theresa May tries to past yet another hurdle enroute to her country's exit from the European Union following a 2016 referendum.

Britain is slated to leave the EU by March next year.

Some government members argue that the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making.

Today, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned saying he could not support the draft deal, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed an hour later.

Junior Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara, junior Brexit minister Suella Braverman, and parliamentary private secretaries Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Ranil Jayawardena have also stepped down.

But May has told the House of Commons that "British people want us to get this done".

May announced the draft EU withdrawal agreement on Wednesday evening.

Here are how the stories have been unfolding today:

No-confidence motion against May

A leader of the pro-Brexit faction in Britain's Conservative Party has confirmed that he's filed a letter of no-confidence in British Prime Minister Theresa May and that he thinks former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would be a strong candidate to replace her.

Speaking outside Parliament, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he expected enough letters to be sent to the committee that oversees Conservative leadership elections to trigger a challenge to May's leadership.

Under party rules, a no-confidence vote takes place if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers write to the 1922 Committee asking for one. That number stands at 48.

Rees-Mogg's letter is likely to spur others to do the same, especially from the European Research Group of Brexit-supporting backbenchers that he leads.

Rees-Mogg identified former Johnson and former Brexit Secretary David Davis as potential leaders, among others.

He said a leadership contest could take place in weeks.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.

If May loses a vote of the 315 Conservative lawmakers, she would be replaced.

If she wins, she would be safe from a challenge for a year.


Gibraltar welcomes Brexit deal

Authorities in Gibraltar are welcoming the draft Brexit deal between Britain and the European Union, saying it makes no concessions to Spain's claims on the tiny outcrop at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said in a statement that the agreement "contains absolutely no concessions on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control."

He adds that there are "no issues of bilateralism that can cause any concern."

Voters in Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union in the U.K.'s Brexit referendum in June 2016. Local people were worried that Brexit could force closure of the border with Spain, preventing some 10,000 workers crossing each day.

The draft Brexit agreement establishes a series of joint Spanish-British committees to consult and exchange information on issues such as workers' rights, taxation and policing.


Merkel happy with draft agreement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she's happy that negotiators were able to come to agreement on a draft Brexit deal.

Speaking at an event in Potsdam, Merkel told reporters that it is now up to the British Parliament and the parliaments of the 27 remaining EU member nations to analyze the deal.

She says "I am very happy it was possible to come up with a proposal after long, and not easy, negotiations."

Merkel did not comment on the resignations in the British government following the deal. On Thursday, a swathe of ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, quit their posts in protest at the deal May secured with the EU.


It's the best deal, says EU official

The top Brexit official at the European Parliament has welcomed the draft Brexit deal with Britain as "the best agreement we could obtain." 

Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Brexit steering committee, said that, under the draft withdrawal agreement, disruptions will be kept to a minimum, and that there will be no "hard border" between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

He also said the deal protects the rights of citizens currently residing in each other's nations and is a good basis for future relations between the EU and Britain.

The European Parliament must approve any deal and Verhofstadt predicted that could be done at the start of next year, well in time of the March 29, 2019 exit. 


Londoners still skeptical 

Londoners are expressing skepticism over the Brexit deal that has been secured by Prime Minister Theresa May but that has already led to a swathe of resignations from her government.

The resignations, which have included Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, make it even more difficult for May to get her deal through Parliament.

Even before the resignations, Patrick Bolster, who works in Westminster, the seat of government, said the "parliamentary arithmetic looks very tricky indeed, so it's very hard to call."

And Robert Voykovic, a 54-year-old civil servant, said that "it (the vote) still remains to be seen whether it will go ahead as planned.

"I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be headed for a second referendum or a general election at some point."


Northern Ireland Party condemns Brexit deal

The Northern Ireland party that props up Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government has condemned her draft Brexit deal, saying it could lead to the breakup of the U.K.

May has relied on the Democratic Unionist Party's 10 lawmakers to win votes since she lost her parliamentary majority in 2017.

But the party opposes proposals in the Brexit deal to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. The DUP says the plans would treat Northern Ireland different to the rest of the U.K. in trade terms with the EU, weakening the bonds that hold the U.K. together.

The DUP leader in Parliament, Nigel Dodds, said the "choice is now clear: we stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice."

Meanwhile, Romania's government says the deal Britain struck to leave the European Union will provide security for hundreds of thousands of Romanians living in the country.

The foreign ministry welcomed the deal which "guarantees the protection of the rights," of Romanians in Britain who'll be able to keep on working, living and studying there after Dec. 2020 when Britain is set to leave the European single market that guarantees the free movement of anyone in the EU.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press, the ministry said the deal "limits the negative consequences" of Brexit for business and foreigners living in Britain.

Romanian officials estimate about half a million Romanians live in Britain, although just 190,000 are officially registered there.



Withdraw it! Corbyn demands

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says Prime Minister Theresa May must withdraw her "half-baked" Brexit deal with the European Union or Parliament will reject it.

Labour Party leader Corbyn says Parliament "cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal."

May is fighting to keep the divorce agreement with the EU alive. It has drawn strong opposition from pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party, and several government ministers have resigned to oppose the deal.

Corbyn signaled that Labour would also oppose it if it comes to a vote in Parliament.

May is defending her besieged divorce deal with the European Union, saying she has taken "the right choices, not the easy ones."

May is addressing Parliament after a flurry of resignations from her government by ministers opposed to the deal.

The departures — including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab — have undermined May's authority and her ability to get the deal through Parliament.

She told lawmakers that they would get a vote on the deal before the U.K. leaves the bloc, and she would ask them to back it "in the national interest."



More Ministers resign over Brexit draft agreement

More ministers have quit the British government, piling pressure on embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.

Junior Brexit Minister Suella Braverman and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a junior education minister, have quit. They follow Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.

All are staunch supporters of Brexit and say the deal agreed between Britain and the bloc does not deliver the firm break with the EU that voters chose in a 2016 referendum.

May says the deal honors the referendum result while also maintaining close ties with the EU, Britain's main trading partner. But her ability to get it through Parliament — and to remain as prime minister — are now in doubt.

The resignations leave May's Brexit deal, and her leadership of the Conservative Party, in peril.


Pound plunges amid minister's resignation

The pound has fallen sharply after Britain's Brexit minister resigned from the government, saying he did not agree with the deal the country had struck with the European Union over the terms of its departure next March.

The currency dropped 1 percent, a relatively large decline for an established currency, to $1.2870 within minutes of a tweet by Dominic Raab saying he "cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU."

Prime Minister Theresa May faces a political backlash over the deal, which is considered insufficient by Brexit backers as well as those who wanted to remain in the EU. Parliament needs to approve the deal and it is unclear whether May has the numbers to push it through.

May, who had persuaded a majority of her cabinet to back the deal, is addressing lawmakers Thursday morning.

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