May Battles to Keep Brexit on Track 01/17 06:13
LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May was consulting opposition
parties and other lawmakers Thursday in a battle to put Brexit back on track
after surviving a no-confidence vote, though there was little immediate sign of
European Union countries were stepping up preparations for a disorderly
British exit on March 29 after the U.K. Parliament rejected May's Brexit
withdrawal deal with the bloc.
Lawmakers threw out the deal Tuesday, in a crushing defeat for May, who
suffered the worst parliamentary defeat in modern British history.
The drubbing was followed by a no-confidence vote in the government, but
May's minority Conservative government survived it on Wednesday night with
backing from its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party.
May said she would hold talks "in a constructive spirit" with leaders of
opposition parties and other lawmakers in a bid to find a way forward for
Britain's EU exit. She has until Monday to come back to Parliament with a Plan
There was little sign of major movement, either from May or from
Parliament's feuding Brexit factions, whose conflicting demands range from a
postponement of Britain's departure date to a new referendum on whether to
leave the EU or remain. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour
Party, refused to meet with May until she ruled out a no-deal Brexit.
Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas, who met with May on Thursday morning,
said the prime minister was "in a fantasy world" if she thought the deal could
be transformed by Monday.
"Parliament is gridlocked," she said.
May so far has showed little inclination to make major changes to her deal
or lift her insistence that Brexit means leaving the EU's single market and
customs union. Many lawmakers think a softer departure that retained single
market or customs union membership is the only plan capable of winning a
majority in Parliament. They fear the alternative is an abrupt "no-deal"
withdrawal from the bloc, which businesses and economists fear would cause
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a longtime Labour Party leader, told the
BBC on Thursday that it would be "sensible" for Corbyn to meet with May to
better define the type of Brexit that Britain wants. He warned that a "no-deal"
Brexit would do substantial harm to Britain's economy.
As Britain flounders, the 27 other EU countries have stood firm, saying they
won't renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and insisting the British government
and its lawmakers to decide what they want to do.
Some British lawmakers want May to call for an extension of negotiations
with the EU and postpone the March 29 deadline to leave the bloc, while others
are lobbying for a second Brexit referendum.
French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron was a holding a special government
meeting Thursday on planning to cope with a "no-deal" Brexit.
The French parliament adopted a law Wednesday allowing emergency measures
after March 30 in the event Britain leaves without a deal.
Such measures could aim to reduce problems in cross-border trade and
transport, notably through the Eurotunnel beneath the English Channel, and
allow British workers and retirees based in France temporary permission to stay
until a longer-term deal is worked out.
Throughout the Brexit negotiations, EU leaders accused Britain of trying to
"cherry pick" benefits of membership in the bloc, seeking to retain access to
the EU's single market while ending the free movement of European citizens into
Britain and breaching other EU guiding principles.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who said Wednesday that he was more
concerned than ever that Britain could crash out of the EU without an
agreement, said the red lines set out by Britain's negotiators had "shut doors."
Barnier said Thursday that "getting an agreement is in everybody's interest"
and that "something has to change" to secure a divorce deal.
"If (the red lines) change, we'll change," Barnier said after meeting
Portuguese officials in Lisbon.