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Britain's May suffers parliament defeat as Brexit debate resumes

11 Janvier 2019

Britain's battle over Brexit turned into political trench warfare between Parliament and the government Wednesday, as Prime Minister Theresa May brought her little-loved European Union divorce agreement back to lawmakers who appear determined to thwart her plans.

MPs insisted that if the PM's deal is voted down next Tuesday, she must set out a "Plan B" to Parliament within three sitting days.

Commons Speaker John Bercow faced an angry backlash from some Conservative MPs over his decision to allow MPs to vote on the issue.

"My understanding is the motion is amendable, I'm clear in my mind about that", Bercow said.

"The government doesn't have a reliable majority to push its agenda through and suggests this vote next week is going to be even harder than we already knew it was going to be", he said.

"But it is also the intention, if that were not to take place, that we respond quickly to provide certainty on the way forward following that vote".

It all points to a scenario in which the prime minister, who leads a weak minority government, can't dictate what happens next, while an emboldened Parliament increasingly asserts its will.

Rather than warming to May's deal since then, lawmakers have tried to wrest control of Brexit from the government and put it in the hands of Parliament.

He said the deadlock could be broken if the United Kingdom gained legally binding assurances from the European Union that the backstop would be a temporary arrangement.

It is likely to prompt an angry response in Brussels, which has repeatedly rejected efforts to put a time limit on the backstop, meant to avoid a hard border in Ireland if no wider trade deal has been agreed.

It could also open the door to alternatives, such as a referendum.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) hold a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street in central London on 10 January 2019 following talks.

Much of PMQs this afternoon saw the Labour leader setting out his complaint that no-deal preparations are a "costly charade".

The amendment to the business motion for the plan, drawn up by the Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve, gives May the deadline to put forward new plans if she loses the vote, as many expect, next Tuesday.

This allows amendments to be put by the Remain wing demanding that the United Kingdom stay in the EU Single Market and Customs Union post-Brexit, as well as other amendments seeking to delay the process.

Mr Grieve's amendment was tabled against a Government motion detailing the timetable for the Brexit deal debate.

"That is what I have tried to do and what I will go on doing".

May is still seeking assurances from the European Union on the most controversial elements of the Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland, in a bid to convince critics to back the agreement. "I want to see this deal getting through parliament".

BBC parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy commented that Bercow's decision "drove a coach and horses through accepted normal practice, and will have huge implications for the course of Brexit". I engaged regularly with major employers in my constituency, such as Nissan, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and others, to hear their concerns about the process as it has unfolded over the past two years.

He said: "If we have a guarantee that works on workers' rights and conditions, that's significant".

Referring to reports shadow global trade secretary Barry Gardiner had described Labour's official Brexit position in the same way, Mr Gove said: "I know, Mr Speaker, there are some distinguished citizens in this country who have put on their cars a poster or sticker saying bollocks to Brexit".

Bercow provoked fury from the Tory benches for selecting the amendment, which government sources contended went against the advice of the House of Commons.

May postponed the vote in mid-December when it became clear lawmakers would resoundingly reject the agreement, a compromise deal that has left both pro-European and pro-Brexit politicians unhappy.

Britain's May suffers parliament defeat as Brexit debate resumes