British PM heading for Brussels for talks on future ties
AFP – Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday she would return to Brussels this week to hammer out Britain’s future relationship with the EU — and overthrowing her would not help negotiations.
After a tumultuous week in which the draft divorce deal agreed between London and the European Union was slammed in parliament and plotters circled, May said the proposed withdrawal accord would only be signed off if the future relationship deal was satisfactory.
May said the week ahead would be "critical" in the Brexit talks.
And while hardcore Brexiteers in her centre-right Conservative Party want her replaced, she said that as things stood, they did not have the numbers to trigger a no-confidence motion.
"I will be going back to Brussels," May told Sky News television, saying she would meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
"The focus this week will be on the future relationship.
"We won’t agree the leaving part… until we’ve got what we want in the future relationship, because these two go together."
That may appease some of the Brexiteers in her cabinet, who on Saturday hinted that further negotiation was needed to keep them onside.
May could face a no-confidence vote if at least 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — 48 MPs — submit letters saying she has lost their support.
More than 20 have publically said they have done so.
Asked if the 48 figure had been reached, May said: "As far as I know, no it has not.
"We’re not going to be distracted.
"A change of leadership at this point isn’t going to make the negotiations any easier and it’s not going to change the parliamentary arithmetic."
On Thursday, four ministers resigned over the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, MPs said it had no chance of getting through parliament, and Brexiteers began submitting their no-confidence letters.
May runs a minority Conservative government and a rump of Brexiteers in her own party, the Northern Irish allies she relies upon for support, plus the opposition, have vowed to vote down the draft deal.
Brexiteers fear the deal would keep Britain shackled to Brussels for years to come. EU supporters say it would leave the UK on worse terms than it has inside the bloc and are calling for a second Brexit referendum to break the logjam.
Asked what she would do if the vote was lost, May said: "There’s a process that parliament will go through.
"The government would come back with their proposals for what the next step was."
She said the left-wing Labour main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was "playing party politics" with Brexit.
Corbyn confirmed Labour would vote against the deal.
"The government have to go back to the EU and renegotiate rapidly," he said, adding that second Brexit referendum was "an option for the future" and "not an option for today".
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted talks with other parties this week on forging a united front against the draft agreement.
"Those who don’t think the prime minister’s deal is the right way to go have now a responsibility to come together and coalesce around an alternative," the Scottish nationalist leader told BBC television.
Dominic Raab, who quit as Brexit secretary on Thursday over the draft deal, said it was "fatally flawed" but could be remedied by just "two or three points" being changed.
"We are being bullied (by the EU), I do think we are being subjected to what is pretty close to blackmail," he told BBC television.
"We cannot accept those dictated terms."
Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry, the main business lobby group, said the deal was not perfect but a compromise that "takes no deal off the table" and opens the path to frictionless trade in the future, said CBI chief Carolyn Fairbairn.