London: A cornered Theresa May issued a “stark” warning to the warring factions within the UK Parliament that the choice was between agreeing on a withdrawal deal or risk no Brexit at all.
In her latest statement from Downing Street on Saturday evening, the British PM sought to defend her move to reach out to Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to break the ongoing parliamentary deadlock over Britain’s impending exit from the EU.
“Because Parliament has made clear it will stop the UK leaving without a deal, we now have a stark choice: leave the European Union with a deal or do not leave at all,” she said. “My answer to that is clear: we must deliver Brexit and to do so we must agree to a deal. If we cannot secure a majority among Conservative and DUP MPs we have no choice but to reach out across the House of Commons.”
Her latest intervention comes amid a mounting mutiny within her own Conservative Party for sitting down with Corbyn to thrash out a solution, which will inevitably take the form of a so-called soft Brexit given Labour’s preference for a common Customs Union with the EU as part of any future relationship with the economic bloc.
However, the British PM highlighted it was either that or not leaving the 28-member economic bloc at all and reneging on the June 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit. She said: “The longer this takes, the greater the risk of the UK never leaving at all.
It would mean letting the Brexit the British people voted for slip through our fingers. “I will not stand for that. It is essential we deliver what people voted for and to do that we need to get a deal over the line.” To placate hard Brexiteer party MPs, May insisted there are areas where the two main UK parties, Conservatives and Labour, agree.
“We both want to end free movement, we both want to leave with a good deal, and we both want to protect jobs. That is the basis for a compromise that can win a majority in Parliament and winning that majority is the only way to deliver Brexit,” she stressed. May is set for another trip to Brussels next week to follow up on her letter to European Council President Donald Tusk seeking a short extension to Article 50 until June 30.
However, it remains to be seen what the remaining EU member countries will be willing to agree to, with any decision on an extension to the Brexit mechanism requiring their unanimous backing. The UK has already sought one extension to the March 29 Brexit deadline and is set to crash out of the bloc on April 12 unless an alternative arrangement is agreed with the EU.
British MPs have rejected May’s EU divorce bill three times over the controversial Irish backstop clause and last week’s talks between the two main parties were aimed at trying to find a proposal which could break the deadlock in the Commons before an emergency EU summit on Wednesday. However, the three days of meetings stalled without agreement on Friday.
Corbyn has said he was “waiting to see the red lines move” and had not “noticed any great change in the government’s position”. He is himself under pressure from his MPs to demand another referendum on any deal he reaches with the government, with 80 Labour MPs signing a letter saying a public vote should be the “bottom line” in the negotiations.