May postpones House vote on deal

A meaningful vote on the British government’s Brexit withdrawal deal is set to be postponed till as late as January as, faced with certain defeat, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that she will be returning to emergency negotiations with Brussels in an attempt to wrestle new concessions. After “carefully” considering concerns expressed by MPs, she told a heated session of the House of Commons that she would defer the vote, originally scheduled for Tuesday, until after further discussions with the leaders of other EU states and the leadership of the European Council and Commission to discuss the “clear concerns” of Parliament. The government is also looking at ways of “empowering” the House of Commons on the contentious issue of the backstop — the insurance arrangement to prevent a hard border developing in Northern Ireland. The backstop issue has been at the heart of some of the concerns, particularly from ‘hard Brexiteers’ who fear that a backstop would put Britain in indefinite customs arrangements with the EU. ‘Govt. is in disarray’ The decision to push back the vote — after four days of debate by MPs — faced scathing criticism from across the House, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisting that the government had “lost control of events” and was “in disarray.” “We have endured two years of shambolic negotiations — red lines which have been boldly announced have been cast aside…” he said, calling for the government to stand aside if it were unable to negotiate a deal. The announcement came after days of insistence that the vote would go ahead despite signs that the deal in its current form faces a barrage of opposition, including from within the Conservative Party itself and its ally, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. The pound tumbled following the news of the postponement, which could put the vote to just over two months till March 29, when Britain is set to leave the EU. Under Brexit legislation, the deal must be passed by January 21; otherwise, the government would have to present what it intends to do next, giving MPs greater opportunities to influence the process. Whether Ms. May will be able to secure any changes on the backstop from the EU remains highly doubtful. EU leaders have repeatedly said that the deal on the table is the best one available. Following news of the postponement, Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, tweed that the EU would “never let the Irish down” — a clear reference to the backstop. While Labour expressed its concerns around the “botched deal,” proponents of a second referendum also renewed their call for a new vote on Brexit. Ms. May rejected the call, insisting that it was important to honour the result of the referendum, and that a new referendum would further divide the country. Reco

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