x

Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Theresa May defends Brexit deal amid leadership challenge threat

Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister after cabinet ministers resigned

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference at Downing Street. Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference at Downing Street. Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May's leadership has been plunged into chaos following the presentation of a draft deal to leave the EU.

Four ministers, including the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, resigned from the cabinet saying that they could not support the draft.

In the face of growing opposition, Mrs May doubled down on her commitment to the agreement during a press conference on Thursday evening.

"This deal delivers what people voted for and is in the national interest," she said.

Senior Brexiteer politician Jacob Rees-Mogg and at least four other Conservative MPs have submitted letters of no confidence in the prime minister.

Mrs May met with Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 committee on Thursday afternoon.

Conservative Party MPs can submit letters of no confidence to Sir Graham, with 48 needed to trigger a vote.

As rumours of a leadership challenge swirled, Mrs May defended her deal in the British parliament presenting it as a compromise.

"We can choose to leave with no deal, risk no Brexit at all or choose to unite and support the best deal that could be negotiated," Mrs May said.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May's proposal is "a false choice between a bad deal and a no deal."

_______________

Read more:

UK pound plunges most since 2017 giving UAE residents remittance opportunity

No-deal Dover rejects Theresa May’s Brexit dreams of EU compromise

British cabinet backs Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Draft Brexit deal ends Britain’s easy access to EU financial markets

_______________

Mr Raab resigned on Thursday morning in protest of a draft Brexit deal, which he said he "cannot in good conscience" support, followed by Work and Pensions secretary, Esther McVey.

Writing in a letter to Mrs May, Mr Raab said the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland, which would avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, "presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom."

Environment minister and Eurosceptic Michael Gove was offered the position as Brexit secretary, according to several media reports.

Clockwise from top left: Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Suella Braverman MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU, and Shailesh Vara, the former Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office. Credits: Reuters, Rex, Getty Images
Clockwise from top left: Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Suella Braverman MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU, and Shailesh Vara, the former Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office. Credits: Reuters, Rex, Getty Images

Mr Gove, who ran for the Conservative Party leadership in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, has said he will only accept the offer if he can renegotiate the draft deal, the Daily Telegraph said.

The former Brexit minister also said he could not support an indefinite backstop arrangement, which subjects Northern Ireland to EU rules if an alternative customs arrangement cannot be agreed.

"No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement," Mr Raab said.

Suella Braverman, a Brexit minister, also resigned mirroring the reasons offered by Mr Raab in her resignation letter.

Ms McVey, who had previously criticised the deal, offered her resignation to the Prime Minister, saying the deal "does not honour the result of the referendum."

Ms McVey had reportedly been shouted down by the chief whip during a marathon five-hour cabinet meeting after she demanded a ministerial vote.

Rehman Chishti, vice chairman of the Conservative Party, handed in his letter of resignation in protest at the draft and also the government's handling of the Asia Bibi case.

Ministerial aides Ranil Jayawardena and Anne-Marie Trevelyan also quit the government.

The pound plunged on news of the resignations. Analysts predict it could fall as much as three per cent from its previous peak.

Meanwhile on the continent, French prime minister Edouard Philippe said a no deal Brexit could still happen, given the deepening divide in the British government.

"We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility of a 'no-deal' Brexit," Mr Philippe said. "It will escape no one that the current political situation in Britain could fuel uncertainty... over the ratification of the accord."

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was happy that a proposal had been "pulled together".

The President of the European Council urged leaders to approve the deal struck by the group's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Mrs May.

Donald Tusk said the deal achieved the EU's objectives in the negotiation and reiterated his contempt for Britain's departure from the organisation.

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier meets European Council President Donald Tusk to hand over the Brexit draft text in Brussels. Reuters
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier meets European Council President Donald Tusk to hand over the Brexit draft text in Brussels. Reuters

The European president also confirmed the European Council will meet on November 25 to discuss the draft deal.

The draft agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the organisation was approved by Mrs May's cabinet on Wednesday after what she said was a passionate debate.

Once the European Council approves the deal, it will have to pass the British parliament, Mrs May's hardest task yet.

Members of the DUP, the party propping up Mrs May's Conservative party said they will vote against the deal.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds accused the prime minister in parliament on Thursday of breaking promises, adding that if accepted, the deal would see the break up of the UK.