News ID: 234111
Published: 0405 GMT November 11, 2018

Four ministers on verge of quitting; EU rejects latest plan

Four ministers on verge of quitting; EU rejects latest plan
Reuters

Four British ministers who back remaining in the European Union are on the verge of quitting Theresa May’s government over Brexit, The Sunday Times reported, as pressures built on the prime minister from all sides.

The newspaper also said that the European Union had rejected May’s plan for an independent mechanism to oversee Britain’s departure from any temporary customs arrangement it agrees. The newspaper sourced the development to British sources, and not sources in the EU team, Reuters reported.

May is trying to hammer out the final details of the British divorce deal but the talks have become stuck over how the two sides can prevent a hard border from being required in Ireland.

The prime minister was under growing pressure on Sunday to change her plan to avoid defeat in a parliamentary vote.

With both Britain and the EU suggesting an agreement is close, Eurosceptic lawmakers and a leading member of a small Northern Irish party that props up her Conservative government made new threats to vote against the terms of the deal she is working on with Brussels.

The vote in Parliament, most likely to come later this year, is gearing up to be the biggest showdown in the lengthy negotiations to leave the EU, Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years.

May found some support from ministers in her cabinet, but it would be hard for her to ignore the growing calls to change tack after a minister resigned and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party threatened to rebel.

Britain has proposed a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement with the EU to resolve the issue but Brexiteers in her party want London to have the final say on when that arrangement would end, to prevent it from being tied indefinitely to the bloc.

 

Support for PM

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Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom said on Sunday she supported May and did not expect other ministers to resign over Brexit.

Leadsom, a one-time challenger to May who campaigned to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, denied some reports in the local media that she was ready to quit.

“I am extremely optimistic (there will be a deal) ... I don’t believe that anybody wants the UK to leave without a deal,” she told BBC radio.

Asked if she was ready to leave government, Leadsom said: “I mean to support the prime minister to get a Brexit that works for the United Kingdom and the EU, keeps our country together and delivers on the referendum.”

A senior cabinet minister was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying: “This is the moment she has to face down Brussels and make it clear to them that they need to compromise, or we will leave without a deal.”

An EU diplomat told Reuters earlier on Saturday that they were cautiously hopeful that an EU summit could happen in November to endorse the deal but that the volatile situation in Britain made it very difficult to predict.

Also senior British defence officials said on Sunday that Britain’s armed forces are making contingency plans for how they could support the country if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Asked what role the armed forces could play if there was a ‘no deal’ Brexit, British Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said: “The armed forces stand ready to support Britain on a practical basis”

“There are contingency plans being made, there are discussions being held behind the scenes as to what support our armed forces will do,” Ellwood said on the ‘Ridge on Sunday’ television program.

 

No vote for 'blind Brexit'

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Britain’s opposition Labour Party will not vote in Parliament for a bad Brexit deal or a “blind Brexit”, Labour’s defence spokesperson Nia Griffith said.

Asked about recent comments from opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn saying that Brexit could not be stopped, Griffith said: “We’ve said very clearly that we do not want a situation of no deal, we’ve also said very clearly that we cannot be voting for a bad deal or a blind Brexit.”

 

   
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