May seeks support as others draw battle lines

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May appealed to wavering British voters on Sunday ahead of a defining few months in which she hopes to secure a Brexit deal and face down opponents who say her EU exit plan is too hard, too soft, or just plain wrong. May, tasked with delivering Britain’s exit from the European Union after a 2016 referendum which continues to divide the country, must find a way through deadlocked talks in Brussels and then convince a sceptical parliament to back the outcome. On Sunday she launched an unusual plea for the backing of centre-ground voters who had previously backed the Labour Party but felt alienated by a shift to the left under current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“I want voters who may previously have thought of themselves as Labour supporters to look at my government afresh. They will find a decent, moderate and patriotic programme that is worthy of their support,” May wrote in an article for the Observer newspaper. Hot off the heels of a speech at her annual conference which polls showed was well received, May sought to reinforce her message that the end of over eight years of austerity was in sight, and that she was capable of delivering reform beyond Brexit. Labour called her message on austerity a con and said she was making “desperate pleas in an attempt to revive her failing administration”.

It looks increasingly likely May will have to rely on the support of so-called ‘moderate’ Labour lawmakers to win parliamentary approval for whatever Brexit deal she is able to strike with the EU. On Sunday, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said her 35 lawmakers would likely vote against the deal, and could instead support a second public vote on the terms of Britain’s EU exit. Also on Sunday, Sturgeon said she would set out her plans for a fresh independence drive as soon as she sees what kind of Brexit deal May brings back from Brussels. With her party meeting for its annual conference in Glasgow, Sturgeon is under increasing pressure to explain how Scotland might win independence from the United Kingdom. — Reuters