May hecticly seeks way to pull MPs behind her Brexit deal

Photo: EPA Anti-Brexit musicians play as they demonstrate outside of the Houses of Parliament in London,

British PM Theresa May is making last ditch effort to convince rebel MPs to back her Brexit divorce deal, warning them that Britain's exit from the EU is now in peril from politicians seeking to thwart it. May will also set out new assurances from the EU that it does not aim to sever Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain under the “backstop” requiring EU rules in the province until a better free trade plan emerges.

The fate of the UK' 29 March exit is deeply uncertain as parliament is likely to vote down May's deal on Tuesday evening, opening up outcomes ranging from a disorderly divorce to reversing Brexit altogether. Facing the deepest crisis in British politics for at least half a century, May will use a speech in the leave-supporting city of Stoke-on-Trent in central England to say that lawmakers blocking Brexit is now a more likely outcome than leaving without a deal.

“There are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so,” May will say in a speech to factory workers in the leave-supporting city of Stoke-on-Trent in central England, according to advance extracts.

May warned lawmakers on Sunday that failing to deliver Brexit would be “catastrophic” for democracy, and her ministers said that thwarting the outcome of the 2016 referendum could lead to rise in far right populism. As part of the effort to get the deal approved by the British parliament, the EU set out some assurances in an exchange of letters on Monday. Brussels has repeatedly said however that the deal itself cannot be renegotiated.

The EU letter, signed by Council and Commission presidents, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, addressed the so called “backstop”, an insurance policy to prevent the return of border controls between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, an EU member. “The point of that letter is to show we're helpful, not punitive, it’s a communication exercise as probably nobody has read the withdrawal agreement — two pages are digestible for more people,” an EU official said.

Both opponents and many supporters of Brexit oppose the backstop for requiring Britain to obey EU rules indefinitely, long after it has given up say in shaping them. The EU stressed that the backstop is not the EU's preferred solution to avoiding a hard border, that it does not undermine the Good Friday Agreement, nor is it part of any covert attempt by the EU to “annex” Northern Ireland.

The UK will also deliver its own letter to the European Council and Commission. May will make a statement to parliament at about 1530 GMT, a government source said. But with May’s deal facing opposition from all sides in the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons, the letters are unlikely to change the fundamental outcome of the vote.

With no-deal Brexit the default option if May's deal is defeated, some lawmakers are planning to pull control of Brexit from the government. The Sunday Times reported that rebel lawmakers were planning to wrest control of the legislative agenda away from May next week with a view to suspending or delaying Brexit, citing a senior government source. Though May is weakened, the executive has significant powers, especially during times of crisis, so it was unclear how parliament would be able to take control of Brexit.

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