UK's May faces another damaging defeat in Brexit saga
LONDON, United Kingdom – Prime Minister Theresa May risks another humiliating Brexit defeat at the hands of her own euroskeptic MPs on Thursday, February 14, with just weeks to go until Britain officially leaves the EU.
Parliament will hold a symbolic vote endorsing May's Brexit strategy but Conservative Party hardliners could abstain, threatening defeat for May.
Euroskeptics in the party's European Research Group are worried that a vote in favor could be seen as ruling out leaving the European Union without a deal.
"Conservative MPs really ought not to be associated with anything, express or implied, which seems to take no deal off the table," said leading ERG member Steve Baker.
"Compromising no deal would be the daftest negotiating strategy and not in the national interest."
A senior source within the ERG said the group would abstain, according to the Daily Telegraph, which would spell almost certain defeat for May given Labour's opposition to the motion.
But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who opened Thursday's debate, sought to reassure leave-supporting MPs, saying that it was still government policy to leave next month, deal or no deal.
"The House has passed legislation by a big majority... to say we're leaving on March 29 and the legislation takes precedence" over a non-binding vote to take no-deal off the table, he told parliament.
Leading Brexiteer Liam Fox warned colleagues that defeat for the government would raise doubts about whether a renegotiated deal could get through parliament, making the EU less likely to make on offer.
"Our European partners will be watching our debate and listening today to see if they get the impression that if they were to make those concessions parliament would definitely deliver," trade minister Fox told BBC Radio 4.
"There's a danger that we send the wrong signals."
Talks at 'crucial stage'
May's initial deal was roundly rejected by British MPs last month, but later parliamentary votes suggested a slim majority for her deal if she could get rid of the backstop clause.
The provision is intended to keep the border with Ireland free-flowing but some fear it could leave Britain trapped in EU trade rules indefinitely with no withdrawal mechanism.
British officials have since held a series of meeting with EU counterparts, who have ruled out reopening negotiations.
"The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this house requires and deliver Brexit on time," May told lawmakers on Tuesday, February 12.
"Having secured an agreement with the EU for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process," she said.
The announcement was seen by political commentators as an attempt to stave off the threat of parliamentary rebellion, with MPs now having to wait until February 27 for another series of votes on what to do if no agreement is reached.
Business leaders and economists have warned of shockwaves around the continent if no transition deal is in place when Britain leaves the EU.
MPs will also hold a non-binding vote on whether to demand that the government release publish the most recent official assessments on the implications of a no-deal Brexit. – Rappler.com