Change tack or face defeat, Brexit critics tell May

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May was under growing pressure on Sunday to change her plan for Britain to leave the European Union 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.
May, who was attending a ceremony to mark 100 years since the end of World War I, 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 (DUP) threatened to rebel.
“If the government makes the historic mistake of prioritising placating the EU over establishing an independent and whole UK, then regrettably we must vote against the deal,” Steve Baker, a leading eurosceptic and former minister, wrote alongside the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
The main battleground is over a so-called backstop to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, something that would only come into force if a deal on future ties cannot guarantee the type of frictionless trade needed to keep it open. Fears that proposals would mean keeping Britain inside the EU’s customs union indefinitely or that Northern Ireland would have to accept different rules and regulations to the rest of the UK have focused opposition to May’s deal.
Eurosceptics have criticised May’s proposals, but it was the resignation of Jo Johnson, the younger brother to Brexit campaign leader Boris Johnson, that highlighted the depth of anger over her plans. — Reuters