‘The living dead’: UK in turmoil

Friday - 29/03/2019 16:19
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons in London on March 29, 2019, during a debate on the Government's Withdrawal Agreement. Pic: AFPSource:AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons in London on March 29, 2019, during a debate on the Government's Withdrawal Agreement. Pic: AFPSource:AFP
Theresa May has suffered another defeat as the British parliament rejected her Brexit deal for a third time, a result the Prime Minister described as “grave”.

British politicians have rejected the government’s divorce deal with the European Union for a third time, leaving the date and terms of the UK’s departure from the bloc uncertain.

The House of Commons voted 286-344 against the withdrawal agreement struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU.

It follows defeats by even wider margins in January and March, and leaves the government’s blueprint for exiting the bloc in tatters.

Speaking after the result of the vote, Prime Minister May said “I think it should be a matter of profound regret to every member of this House that once again we have been unable to support leaving the European Union in an orderly fashion.

“The implications of the House’s decision are grave.”

MPs voted to reject for a third time Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal by 58 votes. Picture: AFP
MPs voted to reject for a third time Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal by 58 votes. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

Britain now has until April 12 to tell the EU what it plans to do next. It must either cancel Brexit, seek a longer delay or crash out of the bloc without a deal.

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EU president Donald Tusk on Friday summoned leaders to an extraordinary summit on April 10, after British politicians again rejected the draft Brexit withdrawal deal they agreed with Britain.

“In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April,” tweeted Tusk, the head of the Council who coordinates summits

The House of Commons was passing judgment — again — on May’s twice-rejected European Union divorce deal amid continuing opposition from hard-line Brexit supporters and Northern Ireland politicians.

Almost three years after Britain voted in June 2016 to leave the EU, British politicians remain deeply gridlocked over Brexit.

Pro-Brexit demonstrators carry placards and Union flags as they gather in parliament Square in central London on March 29, 2019. Picture: AFP)
Pro-Brexit demonstrators carry placards and Union flags as they gather in parliament Square in central London on March 29, 2019. Picture: AFP)Source:AFP

 

The agreement still faced substantial opposition even after May sacrificed her job for her deal, promising to quit if politicians approved the Brexit deal and let Britain leave the EU in May.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — a likely contender to replace May as Conservative Party leader — tweeted that rejecting it risked “being forced to accept an even worse version of Brexit or losing Brexit altogether.”
 

A third vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal, which could end a months-long political crisis or risk Britain crashing out of the EU in two weeks, is underway. Picture: AFP
A third vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal, which could end a months-long political crisis or risk Britain crashing out of the EU in two weeks, is underway. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

Much of the opposition to the deal came from the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which has refused to back the agreement because it treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK. The small party has 10 seats in the House of Commons and some Brexit backers say they will take their cue from the DUP.

Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street for the weekly Prime Minister Question (PMQ) session in the House of Commons in London on March 27, 2019. Picture: AFP
Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street for the weekly Prime Minister Question (PMQ) session in the House of Commons in London on March 27, 2019. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

Two years ago, Britain triggered a two-year countdown to Brexit, with the departure date set for March 29, 2019.

That date arrived, but now the UK is at an impasse that has frustrated EU politicians trying to negotiate an exit agreement, and surprised observers around the world who had viewed Britain’s 1,000-year-old parliamentary system as a model of stability.
 

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray (left) and pro-Brexit campaigner Joseph Afrane go head to head near the Houses of Parliament in London on March 29, 2019. Picture: AFP
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray (left) and pro-Brexit campaigner Joseph Afrane go head to head near the Houses of Parliament in London on March 29, 2019. Picture: AFPSource:AFP


The EU has indicated it could grant Britain a longer delay to Brexit if it plans to change course and tack toward a softer departure. That would, however, require the UK to participate in elections for the European parliament in late May.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the bloc was open to extending the departure process by “six or nine or 12 months.”
 

The March to Leave began in Sunderland on March 16 headed by Nigel Farage, now leader of The Brexit Party after leaving UKIP. The marchers arrive in London today. Pic: Getty
The March to Leave began in Sunderland on March 16 headed by Nigel Farage, now leader of The Brexit Party after leaving UKIP. The marchers arrive in London today. Pic: GettySource:Getty Images

 

The UK government had warned pro-Brexit politicians that rejecting May’s deal could see Brexit delayed indefinitely.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Friday was “the last chance we have to vote for Brexit as we understood it.”

The Brexit political morass has left Britons on both sides of the debate frustrated and angry. Some Brexit supporters, who had planned to be celebrating Friday, were protesting instead.

Retired charity worker Mandy Childs, one of a band of hard-core Brexit supporters walking across England to London under the slogan “Leave Means Leave,” said she felt “heartbroken.” “We were told over a 100 times by a British prime minister that we would be leaving on the 29th of March, 2019,” she said.

“To do that, promise the British people that and then say ‘Actually, no, we need to just put it back’ — absolute betrayal. And how dare she?”

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