May warns of ‘uncharted territory’ if MPs reject Brexit withdrawal deal

British Prime Minister still adamant Commons vote will ‘definitely’ go ahead

British prime minister Theresa May says the UK will be in “uncharted territory” if MPs reject her Brexit deal. A vote on the deal is earmarked for the week starting January 14th. Video: BBC's Andrew Marr Show

 

British prime minister Theresa May has said the UK would be in “uncharted territory” if MPs reject her Brexit deal next week, as she refused to rule out bringing the deal back to Parliament multiple times.

A vote on the deal is now earmarked for the week starting January 14th, after the prime minister postponed it in December because she risked almost guaranteed defeat.

Speaking on Sunday, she was adamant that the Commons vote on her Brexit deal would “definitely” go ahead next week.

Questioned on whether she would continue to put the deal back to MPs if it is rejected, Mrs May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “If the deal is not voted on at this vote that’s coming up, then actually we’re going to be in uncharted territory.”

“I don’t think anybody can say exactly what will happen in terms of the reaction we will see in Parliament.”

Mrs May said she would seek to avert defeat in the vote by securing new reassurances for Northern Ireland, a greater role for UK parliamentarians in forging the future relationship with the EU and further pledges from Brussels.

Mrs May is seeking legally binding assurances that a so-called backstop plan – intended to avoid a hard Irish border, based on proposals for a temporary UK-EU customs union – will be time-limited.

She acknowledged on Sunday that “we are still working on” securing these assurances from the EU.

Theresa May speaking during prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons on December 19th. Mrs May has now said parliament will have a greater say in the rest of the Brexit process Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA
Theresa May speaking during prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons on December 19th. Mrs May has now said parliament will have a greater say in the rest of the Brexit process if her deal is supported Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA

Second referendum

Downing Street will seek to win over critics who have vowed to rebel against Mrs May’s deal this week, by highlighting the dangers posed by a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum.

Asked to rule out a second referendum, Mrs appeared to soften her stance, saying it was her personal view that a second vote would divide the country.

“In my view there should not be a second referendum”, she told the BBC.

In a message to Labour MPs and Conservative Eurosceptics who have vowed to vote down her deal, Mrs May said: “We have got people who are promoting a second referendum in order to stop Brexit, and we have got people who want to see their perfect Brexit.”

With the parliamentary debate on her deal due to begin on Wednesday, Mrs May said there was still work to do to get reassurances over the backstop from the EU.

She also promised parliament would have a greater say in the rest of the Brexit process and warned that rejecting her deal could prevent Britain’s exit.

“Don’t let the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good, because the danger there is actually we end up with no Brexit at all,” Mrs May said.

She did not answer whether she would, if defeated, make a second attempt to get the deal passed by parliament. Mrs May also did not directly respond, when asked if she was leading the country toward a no-deal Brexit.

Legislation amendment

On Tuesday, her government could face a bid to block an unmanaged exit when a group of lawmakers try to amend budget legislation to deny funding for some no-deal preparations unless they are approved by parliament. It is unclear yet whether the amendment has enough support to pass.

Mrs May repeated her objections to holding a fresh public vote on the deal.

She said a second referendum would be divisive, and also highlighted the lack of time available to hold a new referendum.

“Practically, actually you couldn’t get a referendum in time before the 29th of March – you’d be talking about extending Article 50,” she said, referring to the two-year exit notice Britain sent to the EU in March 2017.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. Additional reporting – Reuters

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