Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

May calls for third vote on EU exit deal

  • Britain's unilateral rule-out of a no-deal Brexit was like 'the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way', Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said (Photo: EUobserver)

British prime minister Theresa May has urged MPs to back her EU exit deal in a third vote or face a Brexit delay of up to two years.

But EU leaders might not agree to a delay, with EU institutions pushing them to take a hard line, and with a no-deal Brexit on 29 March still the default legal option for now.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"If the house finds a way in the coming days to support a deal, it would allow the government to seek a short limited technical extension to [Brexit] ... to pass the necessary legislation and ratify the agreement," May told parliament on Wednesday (13 March).

"If it is not willing to support a deal in the coming days ... then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension," she said.

The third vote on the EU exit accord would take place on 20 March, she added.

MPs already rejected it twice due to fears it could leave the UK stuck in the EU customs union indefinitely because of arrangements concerning the Irish border.

But the majority against the accord shrunk from 230 in the first vote to 149 in the second one, prompting Goldman Sachs, a leading bank, for one, to estimate that there was a 55 percent chance that a third attempt might succeed.

May spoke after MPs earlier on Wednesday voted to rule out a no-deal EU departure under any circumstances due to the legal and economic disarray that that would cause.

They will vote again on Thursday on whether to back May's motion on the short delay.

But whatever kind of delay they ask for, the UK will remain on course to leave the EU on 29 March unless the 27 other EU leaders also agree, by consensus, to grant their wishes at a summit in Brussels on 21 March.

France, Germany, and Ireland have indicated that they would be open to a short extension. "We still hope that we can avoid an unregulated Brexit," German foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday.

But other countries, including the Netherlands, have taken a harder line.

The British MPs' vote to unilaterally rule out a no-deal Brexit on 29 March was like "the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way", Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday.

Hardball

The European Commission and the European Parliament also urged the EU-27 to play hardball.

EU leaders should not agree to an extension in order to let the UK renegotiate the exit deal, Michel Barnier, the commission's Brexit negotiator, told MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

"Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion ... is done and dusted. We have the withdrawal agreement. It is there," he said.

EU leaders should also reject May's idea of a "short technical extension" and should agree on a long extension only if the UK was to hold snap elections or a second referendum, Barnier's deputy, Sabine Weyand, added.

The British MPs' unilateral rule-out of a no-deal exit was "divorced from reality", she said, echoing Rutte.

"They [the UK] decided to leave - it's their problem, not ours," Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament president, also told German media, in a sign of sour grapes in Brussels.

"It's a matter now of avoiding the biggest mistake of all - a chaotic Brexit without contractual arrangements in place," he added.

Big mistake

With 15 days to go before that happens, MEPs approved temporary emergency measures on Wednesday to let airlines keep flying between the UK and Europe, on the rights of UK residents, and on fishing access, among other items.

The UK also published a memo saying it would not impose tariffs on 87 percent of EU goods imported into the country or impose new border checks as of 30 March.

With May now holding backroom talks with hardline Brexiteers and Northern Irish MPs who rejected her deal the first two times around, British finance minister, Philip Hammond, whose job was to protect British businesses from harm, urged them to get behind her on the third time around.

"Tomorrow [Thursday], we will have the opportunity to start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus ... to exit the EU in an orderly way, to a future relationship [with Europe] that will allow Britain to flourish, protecting jobs and businesses," he said in parliament on Wednesday.

A no-deal exit would harm not just Great Britain's economy, but also its "standing and reputation in the world", he said.

Legal uncertainty hangs over Brexit vote

Uncertainty continued to hang over Tuesday night's big vote on Brexit, as British MPs and their lawyers tried to make sense of last-minute tweaks to the exit deal.

Opinion

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

News in Brief

  1. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  2. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  3. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  4. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president
  5. Putin: Russia will help Africa without 'conditions'
  6. Almost 200 arrests in Catalonia independence protests
  7. Report: Russian hackers used Iranian cover to attack UK
  8. Next EU economy chief calls for looser budget policies

Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  2. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  3. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  4. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  5. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  6. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  7. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK
  8. EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us