UK PM’s party opposes Brexit deal as economy slows

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid to push her Brexit plans through parliament was dealt another blow on Friday when a survey showed most of her own party’s members oppose the agreement and would prefer to leave the EU without a deal.
If lawmakers do not approve the deal, the world’s fifth largest economy is on course to leave the European Union on March 29 without one, a nightmare scenario for many big businesses who fear disruption to trade.
May needs 318 votes to get the deal she struck with Brussels in November through parliament, yet 117 of her Conservative Party’s 317 lawmakers voted against her in a confidence vote on December 12.
That means that, unless she gains the support of some of the 257 lawmakers in the opposition Labour Party — which has said it will not back the deal — she will need to win over swathes of her own party. Friday’s YouGov survey offered a snapshot of the challenge she faces.
Of 1,215 of the Conservative Party’s rank-and-file members questioned by the pollster, 59 per cent opposed May’s deal and 76 per cent said warnings over the risks of disruption in the event of a no-deal were “exaggerated or invented.”
The British economy is showing clear signs of slowing with house prices taking a hit, services companies reporting crisis-like pessimism and lending to British consumers grew at its slowest pace in nearly four years.
The pound, which sank to its lowest since April 2017 on Thursday, rose against the dollar to $1.2670. Just 38 per cent of those polled by YouGov said they supported May’s deal.
“Grassroots Tories (Conservatives) are even less impressed than Tory Members of Parliament (MPs),” said Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, who helps run a study of British political party membership which commissioned the survey.
Facing defeat in parliament last month, May postponed a vote on the deal and pledged to seek further legal and political assurances from the other 27 members of the EU, which has signalled it could try to allay rebel’s fears but will not reopen negotiations.
The parliamentary vote is now due to take place the week of January 14 and if May’s bid to push her deal fails, the United Kingdom will either leave without a deal or have to delay Brexit. — Reuters