Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Britain warned of 'unattractive choices' after Brexit deal fails

Brexit delay on the cards as votes on stopping no-deal are held

Pro-Brexit campaigners hold placards as they march near the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Britain will confront head-on the threat of a no-deal Brexit in a parliamentary vote with huge ramifications for Prime Minister Theresa May. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Pro-Brexit campaigners hold placards as they march near the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Britain will confront head-on the threat of a no-deal Brexit in a parliamentary vote with huge ramifications for Prime Minister Theresa May. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The search for a new way to deliver Britain’s exit from the EU was under way yesterday as Parliament was presented with a vote to reject leaving without a deal in place with Brussels.

Parliament overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed withdrawal agreement on Tuesday over a backstop that would have obliged London to keep free trade arrangements on the Irish border.

The measure failed by 149 votes, the third-largest defeat for a sitting government. Despite a last-minute dash to Strasbourg for assurances on leaving the border commitments, the deal was sunk after legal advice that the situation had not changed. It was earlier defeated by 230 votes.

Opening the debate on the no-deal vote, Mrs May was forced to ask a Cabinet colleague Michael Gove to speak for the government.

Unless a resolution to the impasse was found, Britain would crash out of the EU in 15 days, Mr Gove said.

“That is an inescapable fact and that is why we face a series of unattractive choices,” he said.

Mr Gove, a leader in the leave campaign for the referendum in 2016, said there were constitutional consequences of a no-deal Brexit when voters were not told it could be an option.

And he said the lack of a devolved government in Northern Ireland would make it difficult to handle pledges under the 1998 peace agreement.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond said that leaving the EU without a deal would damage the British economy and leave people poorer.

Mr Hammond said that Parliament’s rejection of Mrs May’s Brexit deal had created a “cloud of uncertainty” and crashing out would cause “significant disruption”.

The chancellor unveiled a lower growth forecast for this year, cut to 1.2 per cent from 1.6 per cent as a result of the uncertainty.

“Last night’s vote leaves a cloud of uncertainty hanging over our economy,” Mr Hammond said. “The idea that some readily available fix to avoid the consequences of a no-deal Brexit is just wrong.”

The government detailed plans that would leave 87 per cent of all imports to the UK subject to tariffs, up from 80 per cent, in a no-deal Brexit on March 29. Officials said that was despite plans to impose temporarily lower tariffs on European goods.

Industry leaders were dismayed by the announcement.

“What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the head of the Confederation of British Industry. “This is no way to run a country.”

Britain’s newspapers were damning over the failures to secure a deal with the front page of the Daily Mail declaring “The House of Fools” had chosen to “plunge our despairing nation into chaos”.

With despair in Conservative ranks over Mrs May’s handling of Brexit, some politicians are demanding votes that would allow Parliament to choose ­between options and dictate the next phase of a delayed Brexit.

“She hasn’t allowed Parliament to explore what alternative compromises we might support,” said Nick Boles, a Conservative MP.

“People keep saying there is no majority for any compromise. We don’t know that. We’ve never been allowed to debate and vote on anything other than her deal.”

Europe’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said yesterday that it was up to the UK to come up with a new plan that could avert the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Barnier said the talks were “done and dusted” at his end.

“We are at a critical point. The risk of a no deal has never been higher,” he told the European Parliament in ­Strasbourg.

The EU had said that ­Tuesday’s vote was the last opportunity to secure a negotiated deal on Britain’s departure.

Drawing on his standing as a leader in the leave referendum campaign in 2016, Mr Gove said there were constitutional consequences of quitting the bloc without a deal when the option was not presented to voters.

"There are also political challenges in leaving on March 29 without a deal. During the referendum campaign, we argued that we should leave with a deal," he said. “[And] there are significant constitutional challenges as well."

In particular, he said, the lack of a devolved government in Northern Ireland would make it difficult to handle the pledges under the 1998 peace agreement.

Meanwhile Philip Hammond, the chancellor, issued a fresh warning that leaving the European Union without a deal would damage the British economy and leave people less well off. Parliament’s rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal had created a “cloud of uncertainty,” adding that crashing out would cause “significant disruption”.

The chancellor unveiled a lower growth forecast for 2019, cut to 1.2 per cent from 1.6 per cent as a result of the uncertainty. “Last night’s vote leaves a cloud of uncertainty hanging over our economy,” Mr Hammond said. “The idea that some readily available fix to avoid the consequences of a no-deal Brexit is just wrong.”

In the event of a no-deal that severs the UK's links with the EU at a stroke on March 29, the government detailed plans that would see 87 per cent of all imports to the UK subject to tariffs, up from 80 per cent. Officials said Britain that’s despite plans to impose temporarily lower tariffs on European goods if the country leave’d the world’s largest trading bloc without a deal, the government announced.

Industry leaders were dismayed by the announcement. “What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century,” Carolyn Fairbairn, the head of the Confederation of British Industry, said. “This is no way to run a country.”

Britain’s newspapers were damning over the failures to secure a deal with the front page headline of middle-market tabloid the Daily Mail declaring “The House of Fools” that had chosen to “plunge our despairing nation into chaos”.

With despair over Mrs May’s handling of Brexit shared throughout the Conservative ranks, some politicians are demanding indicative votes that would allow parliament to choose been options and thus dictate the next phase of a delayed Brexit. “She hasn't allowed Parliament to explore what alternative compromises we might support," said Nick Boles, a Conservative MP. "People keep saying there is no majority for any compromise. We don't know that. We've never been allowed to debate and vote on anything other than her deal."

Europe's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday it was up to the UK to come up with a new plan that could stave off the threat of a no-deal Brexit. He said the talks were “done and dusted” at his end.

"We are at a critical point. the risk of a no deal has never been higher," he told the European parliament in Strasbourg.

The EU had warned that Tuesday's vote was the last opportunity to secure a negotiated deal on Britain’s departure.

Updated: March 13, 2019 10:50 PM

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