Ex-PM Major urges May to drop Brexit ‘red lines’

Updated January 20, 2019

Email

British Prime Minister John Major (L), talks with Lieutenant General Michael Walker (R), Commander, Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), in the Terme Hotel on Ilidza Compound in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, during Operation Joint Endeavour. — Wikimedia Commons
British Prime Minister John Major (L), talks with Lieutenant General Michael Walker (R), Commander, Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), in the Terme Hotel on Ilidza Compound in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, during Operation Joint Endeavour. — Wikimedia Commons

LONDON: Former British prime minister John Major urged Theresa May on Saturday to drop her “red lines” on Brexit or allow parliament to find a way forward to avoid a damaging no-deal departure from the European Union in March.

Major said he compromised on key decisions on the Northern Irish peace process and the first Gulf War while prime minister between 1990 and 1997, and May should do the same after her Brexit plan was rejected by a huge majority in parliament.

“Her deal is dead and I don’t think honestly that tinkering with it is going to make very much difference if any difference at all,” Major, who campaigned to stay in the EU ahead of the 2016 referendum, told BBC Radio.

May is due to tell parliament on Monday how she intends to proceed on Brexit. Lawmakers may then propose alternatives to see if any could command majority support.

“If we leave in chaos and without a deal, that seems to me to be the worst of all outcomes,” Major said.

May should therefore “go around” lawmakers in her party who say they are ready to accept a no-deal Brexit and drop her opposition to key issues in the negotiations, said Major, who also faced a revolt inside the Conservative Party over Europe.

If May cannot compromise, she should allow parliament to find a way to overcome its splits, Major said. “I think there are signs parliament might be able to reach consensus,” he said.

Failing that, Britain should have a fresh referendum on its membership of the EU. In the meantime, delaying Brexit was wise, Major said.

Labour Party seeks ‘frank’ debate

Britain’s opposition Lab­our Party is calling for an “open and frank debate” on the government’s stalled Brexit plan and an increased role for Parliament in managing Britain’s departure from the European Union but still won’t meet with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Keir Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, used a speech on Saturday to say that it is now up to Parliament to take the tough decisions needed to break the Brexit impasse. He said holding a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership has to remain an option.

Austrian Chancellor Seb­a­­stian Kurz suggested on Saturday the EU may be willing to give Britain more time to leave if it has a good strategy because a “no-deal” departure would be bad for everyone.

He was quoted by Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper as saying “if London presents an orderly strategy and plan, a postponement of the exit date by a couple of months is conceivable”. He said: “One thing is certain: a hard, disorderly Brexit would harm us all.”

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2019