British PM May battles to save Brexit deal as ministers quit


British PM May battles to save Brexit deal as ministers quit
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

In Summary

  • Just over 12 hours after May announced that her team of top ministers had agreed to the terms of the draft agreement, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and work and pensions minister Esther McVey quit.
  • Their departure shakes May’s divided government and her Brexit strategy, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
  • Many criticized the draft deal, agreed with the EU on Tuesday, for making Britain a “vassal” state, beholden to the bloc’s rules even after leaving on March 29.

Prime Minister Theresa May battled on Thursday to save a draft divorce deal with the European Union after her Brexit secretary and other ministers quit in protest at an agreement they say will trap Britain in the bloc’s orbit for years.

Just over 12 hours after May announced that her team of top ministers had agreed to the terms of the draft agreement, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and work and pensions minister Esther McVey quit, saying they could not support it.

Their departure, the resignations of two junior ministers and reports others were considering quitting, shakes May’s divided government and her Brexit strategy, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal. Some lawmakers openly questioned whether May’s government could survive.

Raab is the second Brexit secretary to quit over May’s plans to leave the EU, the biggest shift in British policy in more than 40 years. By leaving now, some suggested that Raab could be positioning himself as a possible successor to May.

But the prime minister showed little sign of backing down. In parliament she warned lawmakers they now faced a stark decision.

“The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated,” she said.

She said those lawmakers who believed she could get a deal that did not include a backstop arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland were wrong.

Her spokesman said May would fight any vote of confidence in her premiership and she intended to be prime minister when Britain leaves the bloc in March next year.

Strategy in doubt

In the markets, sterling was set for its second biggest drop this year on the opposition to the draft agreement.

British financial regulators called major banks asking for feedback on market conditions because of sharp falls in the pound and shares, sources said.

In parliament, lawmakers from her Conservative Party and the opposition parties took turns to rubbish the draft deal, a sign May faces an all but impossible task to get the agreement through the House of Commons.

Many criticized the draft deal, agreed with the EU on Tuesday, for making Britain a “vassal” state, beholden to the bloc’s rules even after leaving on March 29.

 

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