UK government defiant over May’s Brexit deal despite setback


LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government remained defiant after Parliament took partial control of the stalled process of leaving the European Union, arguing Tuesday that the maneuvering simply underscores the need for lawmakers to approve her twice-defeated deal.

The House of Commons voted Monday to take control of the parliamentary timetable away from the government so that lawmakers can vote on alternatives to the withdrawal agreement May negotiated with the EU.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC on Tuesday that the government won’t “pre-commit” to accepting the option backed by lawmakers because they may come up with a plan that is impractical.

“The best way through this impasse is the one deal that has been negotiated with the EU that can be delivered quickly now,” Hancock said, referring to the prime minister’s agreement.

May’s authority is hanging by a thread after 30 members of her Conservative Party defied her instructions and voted for parliament to take control of the process. Three government ministers resigned rather than vote with the government.

The prime minister is continuing to push for approval of her deal with the EU even though the House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected it during votes in January and again in March.

Lawmakers who backed Monday’s motion, which passed 329-302, hope to find an alternative that can command a majority in Parliament by holding a series of “indicative votes” on other options. Those alternatives include a “soft Brexit” that maintains close economic ties with the EU or scrapping Britain’s departure altogether.

Richard Harrington, who resigned as a business minister to vote in favor of Monday’s motion, accused the government of “playing roulette” with people’s lives.

Cabinet ministers gathering Tuesday for their regular meeting are expected to demand that Conservative Party lawmakers be allowed to follow their consciences, rather than vote the party line, during the debate Wednesday on alternatives to the prime minister’s deal.

“Parliament should seek urgently to resolve the situation by considering alternatives freely, without the instruction of party whips, and government should adopt any feasible outcome as its own in order to progress matters,” said Alistair Burt, who quit his role in the Foreign Office after defying May on Monday.

“I did not believe the government was prepared to do that, so had to vote to ensure this happens.”


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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement on Brexit to lawmakers in the House of Commons, London, Monday March 25, 2019. May is under intense pressure Monday to win support for her Brexit deal to split from Europe.(House of Commons via AP)