Britain’s Brexit drama faces parliament judgment day


LONDON: Britain faces a moment of truth Tuesday when parliament votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s ill-loved Brexit plan — a day after she said she secured last-minute changes to the deal from the EU.
May huddled late Monday with EU leaders in Strasbourg in a bid to salvage the vision of Brexit she set out after coming to power nearly three years ago.
The two sides then announced “legally binding changes” to the old agreement aimed at addressing Britain’s needs and getting the deal through parliament.
“Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people,” May said.
The three-part package of changes effectively aims to resolve a key sticking point for British MPs over the so-called backstop plan to keep open the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
But late Monday, Britain’s main opposition Labour Party announced it would vote against the deal, saying May had “failed”.
This evening’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised parliament,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Political chaos verging on panic has gripped Britain as its 46-year relationship with the European Union nears its scheduled end in 17 days.
The UK still has no roadmap for leaving and is increasingly doubting if the divorce it set in motion in a 2016 referendum will ever even take place.
The main trouble started when May’s deal with the remaining 27 EU nations — pieced together over tortured months of negotiations — suffered an historic defeat in the House of Commons in January.
May has been delaying a second showdown in the hope of wresting concessions from Brussels that could appease lawmakers and save her teetering government, which she claimed to have achieved in Strasbourg.
“It’s this deal or Brexit might not happen at all,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said after their meeting.
“There will be no third chance.”
Brexit hardliners from May’s Conservative Party and the DUP, a small Northern Irish party which is part of May’s coalition government, have said they will scrutinise the documents that have been agreed.
The vote is expected at around 1900 GMT.
Another defeat would set the stage for additional votes in parliament this week that could postpone Brexit and possibly reverse it in the months to come.
Any delay may have to be short-lived.
Juncker on Monday said a delay beyond European Parliament elections at the end of May would mean Britain would have to take part in the polls.


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