Wednesday, May 29, 2024

WORLD | 27-03-2019 17:48

UK PM May to step down if her Brexit deal goes through

British Prime Minister tells Conservative MPs on Wednesday that she would quit if they see through the withdrawal agreement that she previously negotiated with Brussels.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday pledged to step down if MPs back her EU divorce deal, in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock in Britain's fractured Parliament.

Following months of pressure, May told her Conservative MPs that she would quit if they see through the withdrawal agreement she painstakingly negotiated with Brussels.

Her dramatic gambit came just two hours before MPs started a flurry of votes seeking a last-minute alternative Brexit plan to replace her deal.

May said she would not lead the country in negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the European Union, once Britain is out of the bloc.

"This has been a testing time for our country and our party. We're nearly there," May told the packed closed-door meeting in Parliament, according to her Downing Street office.

"I know there is a desire for a new approach -- and new leadership -- in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations and I won't stand in the way of that.

"But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit. I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.

"I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty: to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit."

Finance minister Philip Hammond said May had "demonstrated once again that she puts getting an orderly Brexit done ahead of everything else".

Top Brexit supporter Boris Johnson, a leading critic of May's deal and a potential candidate to replace her, told fellow MPs he would vote for the deal after the announcement, British media reported.

A growing number of Brexit hardliners said they too would change their vote after twice rejecting the deal.

The government has said it is hoping to put the deal to a vote once again on Thursday or Friday.

MPs vote on alternatives

Three years of political turmoil that followed Britain's decision to break its near half-century bond with the EU had been scheduled to end on Friday with the formal completion of the divorce.

But lawmakers have twice resoundingly rejected the agreement May concluded with Brussels.

Parliament is trying to resolve the crisis, having given itself the right to choose from a variety of alternatives to May's plan.

It was voting on eight options that range from a second referendum to recalling the EU withdrawal notice or leaving under much closer economic terms. May's cabinet is abstaining.

Time has been set aside on Monday for MPs to try and whittle down the most popular options to a final plan.

But the motions are non-binding and it will be tough for Parliament to force the government to back proposals it disagrees with.

'Better than not leaving'

EU leaders have given Britain an extended deadline of April 12 to either salvage May's deal or come up with an alternative.

Failure to do either could result in a no-deal divorce -- a scenario that frightens markets and businesses.

If Parliament does adopt May's deal, Britain is headed for the exit door on May 22.

Britain could otherwise seek an even longer extension, meaning it must hold European Parliament elections nearly two months after it was supposed to have left.

May will hope none of the alternatives earn majority support and that her own agreement ends up looking like the best option.

She has already won the backing of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who heads the European Research Group of hard Brexiteers in her party that twice voted against the deal.

"We've got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all," he told BBC radio.

European leaders are watching the entire process with concern.

European Council President Donald Tusk urged EU lawmakers on Wednesday to remain open to a long postponement while Britain rethinks its stance.

"We should be open to a long extension if the UK wishes to rethink its Brexit strategy," he said.


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