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21 May 2019

Bloomberg: May’s desperate gamble on a new Brexit referendum falls flat

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In a hastily arranged speech, the embattled prime minister promised to give members of Parliament a vote on whether to call another referendum to ratify Britain’s divorce from the EU - but she made it conditional on them backing her redrafted deal first.

Within minutes of her speech ending, the backlash began. Pro-Brexit Conservative MPs joined the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and May’s Northern Irish allies to condemn her proposals. They vowed to vote against them in the House of Commons next month.

The failure of May’s deal would throw the U.K. into renewed turmoil and uncertainty. The outcome of Brexit would be almost impossible to predict as it will be left to May’s successor as Tory leader and prime minister to complete the process.

Final Chance

Leaving the EU with no deal, or even remaining inside the bloc could be back on the table once May is gone. Boris Johnson, who has said he’d be prepared to leave without an agreement, is the front-runner in the leadership race that’s unofficially under way. Johnson was quick to come out against May’s latest plan, as was pro-Brexit rival Dominic Raab.

May’s offer represents possibly the final throw of the dice for a prime minister who has run out of options. Almost three years after the U.K. voted to exit the EU, May’s deal has been rejected three times by Parliament. She’s tried cross-party talks to work out a joint plan with Corbyn but they collapsed last week. Her party is now bracing for defeat in European elections on Thursday -- a poll the U.K. wasn’t meant to take part in and has been forced to because Brexit has been delayed.

The pound strengthened after Bloomberg reported the plan for a vote on another referendum, but then reversed its gains. It was 0.3% weaker in early Wednesday trading.

May has promised to put her deal, in the form of a draft law, to a vote in Parliament in the first week of June. Facing overwhelming calls for her to resign, the prime minister has promised to agree to the timetable for her own exit once that vote has taken place. Barring a political miracle, May is headed for a humiliating end to her career.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4 the draft law would be published on Wednesday.

New Plan

“I have tried everything I possibly can to find a way through,” May told an audience in central London. “I offered to give up the job I love earlier than I would like.”

The prime minister said that although the cross-party talks with Labour have failed, most members of Parliament still want to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum. Then she set out her offer of “one last chance to do that.”

As part of a 10-point plan, May promised:

  • A choice for Parliament over the kind of customs model the U.K. should have with the EU after Brexit.
  • A guaranteed vote on whether to call a second referendum to ratify the terms of the exit deal, before Parliament can approve the divorce.
  • Alternative arrangements to mitigate the impact of the so-called “backstop” plan to for avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

But first members of the House of Commons will need to vote in favor of May’s overall divorce deal in the first week of June, in what would be the first stage of her bill’s passage through Parliament. [...]

Full article on Bloomberg

© Bloomberg

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