British Prime Minister Theresa May came under growing pressure yesterday to change her plan for Britain to leave the European Union to avoid defeat in a parliamentary vote.
With both Britain and the EU suggesting an agreement is close, Eurosceptic Tories and a leading member of the Democratic Unionist Party made new threats to vote against the terms of the deal she is working on with Brussels.
The vote in parliament, most likely to come later this year, is gearing up to be the biggest showdown in the lengthy negotiations to leave the EU.
Mrs May, who was attending a ceremony to mark 100 years since the end of World War I, found some support from ministers in her cabinet, but it would be hard for her to ignore the growing calls to change tack after a minister resigned and the DUP threatened to rebel.
“If the government makes the historic mistake of prioritising placating the EU over establishing an independent and whole UK, then regrettably we must vote against the deal,” Steve Baker, a leading Eurosceptic and former minister, wrote alongside the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’.
The main battleground is over the so-called backstop to prevent the return of a hard border, something that would only come into force if a deal on future ties cannot guarantee the type of frictionless trade needed to keep it open.
Fears that proposals would mean keeping Britain inside the EU’s customs union indefinitely or that Northern Ireland would have to accept different rules and regulations to the rest of the UK have focused opposition to May’s deal.
The resignation on Friday last of Jo Johnson, the remain-voting younger brother to Brexit campaign leader Boris Johnson, highlighted the depth of anger over her plans.
Many say Mrs May’s desire to prioritise free-flowing trade of goods with Europe will make Britain little more than a “rule taker”, unable to break free of Brussels’ decisions. But Mrs May did find some support.
Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said: “I urge colleagues to support the prime minister. We are at a difficult stage – we have to hold our nerve and keep negotiating.”
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