Published: Tue, December 11, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Even Theresa May's latest Brexit retreat may not save her now

Even Theresa May's latest Brexit retreat may not save her now

Prime Minister Theresa May has told the House of Commons that Tuesday's vote on her Brexit deal is being "deferred".

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Mrs May of "pathetic cowardice" and urged Labour to table a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, which she said the SNP would support.

Mrs May said her discussions have consistently shown there should be a backstop to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, noting concerns raised by MPs have been over the permanence of the arrangement.

Mrs May will now tour European capitals in a desperate bid to reopen the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and strip it of the Irish border backstop, which she conceded had caused MPs "widespread and deep concern".

Conservative rivals are preparing for a potential leadership challenge, and Labour has threatened to call for a no-confidence motion in the government.

But in the face of nearly certain defeat - despite days of insistence the vote would not be pulled, and the visible anger of Commons Speaker John Bercow - the UK Government suspended debate on the issue.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar ruled out reopening talks around the backstop, saying it was not possible to reopen any aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement without reopening all of it.

"At that point, she will have decisively and unquestionably lost the confidence of parliament on the most important issue facing the country, and parliament will be more likely to bring about the general election our country needs to end this damaging deadlock".

After Mr Corbyn further criticised Mrs May for her handling of the Brexit process, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable further put the boot in before appealing to the Opposition leader to act.

Ministers will seek to defer the vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal without seeking approval of MPs, despite a warning from the Speaker that this would be "deeply discourteous".

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But she added: "I am clear from what I have heard in this place and from my own conversations that these elements do not offer a sufficient number of colleagues the reassurance that they need".

Ministers are believed to have been told of the decision during an emergency cabinet conference call.

He also said: "The Prime Minister is trying to buy herself one last chance to save this deal".

Fellow Labour member Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said the PM should step aside if she can not summons a majority in the House of Commons.

May would remain prime minister in the meantime, but without much authority as the clock ticks down to March 29, the day Britain officially is due to leave the EU.

Southend MP and former whip James Duddridge had underlined the depth of the problem the PM faced if she called a vote on delaying the meaningful vote.

Earlier on Monday a spokesperson for Mrs May said that that the vote "is going ahead as planned" and said that the PM is "confident of winning it".

May could also be ousted by MPs from within her own Conservative Party and British media are full of speculation on potential contenders.

European sources privately say only tweaks in the accompanying declaration on post-Brexit ties might be possible, which are not legally enforceable.

It comes as the European Court of Justice ruled the United Kingdom could cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members.

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