May to make MPs a final ‘bold offer’ on Brexit deal

Updated May 20, 2019

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British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she was preparing to make a  “bold offer” to MPs in one final attempt to get them to back her Brexit deal. — AFP/File
British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she was preparing to make a “bold offer” to MPs in one final attempt to get them to back her Brexit deal. — AFP/File

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she was preparing to make a “bold offer” to MPs in one final attempt to get them to back her Brexit deal.

May said that when she brings the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before parliament early next month, it will come with a new package of measures attached that she hopes can command majority support.

“I still believe there is a majority in parliament to be won for leaving with a deal,” May wrote in The Sunday Times newspaper.

MPs three times rejected the deal May struck with Brussels, forcing Britain’s EU departure date to pushed back from March 29 to April 12 and again to October 31.

The bill is needed to ratify the divorce agreement struck with the European Union.

Her authority weakened by the defeats, May on Thursday agreed to set out a timetable for her departure following the vote in the week beginning June 3, regardless of whether MPs back her deal at the fourth time of asking.

Observers say she will likely trigger a contest for the leadership of her governing Conservative Party once the bill either falls or completes all of its stages through parliament.

“When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support,” May wrote.

“I will not be simply asking MPs to think again. Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with fresh pairs of eyes — and to give it their support.” The bill is expected to include new measures on workers’ rights, future customs arrangements with the EU, and on the use of technology to avoid the need for border controls between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state and the UK’s only land neighbour.

It will not, however, seek to re-open the withdrawal agreement, which Brussels repeatedly insisted could not be re-negotiated, despite many MPs voting it down due to concerns about its so-called “backstop” clauses on Northern Ireland. May said that in six weeks of Brexit compromise talks with the Labour main opposition — which collapsed on Friday — common ground had been found on rights and protections for workers and the environment, and on security.

She said the government now had a much clearer understanding of what it would take to get a deal through.

May’s cabinet is due to consider the changes during the week, and whether holding votes in parliament before June 3 to test support for possible Brexit options would be worthwhile. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party was still on course to vote against the bill.

“Nothing I’ve heard leads me to believe it’s fundamentally any different to the previous bill that’s been put forward, so as of now we’re not supporting it,” he told BBC television. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the alternatives to the deal were not leaving the EU, which he labelled a “huge betrayal” to the democratic system, or a no-deal Brexit.

“If parliament won’t back a deal then it needs to confront that reality,” he told Sky News television.

May’s gambit comes ahead of the European Parliament elections, to be held in Britain on Thursday.

The opinion polls make dire reading for the Conservatives, with the newly-formed Brexit Party forecast to win the most seats, ratcheting up the pressure on May.

The latest survey out on Sunday put eurosceptic figurehead Nigel Farage’s single-issue party way ahead on 34 percent, with Labour on 20 percent, the pro-EU Liberal Democrats on 15 percent and the Conservatives on 11 percent.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2019