May Heads Into Crucial Vote Seeking Common Ground: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be holding her ground ahead of a crucial week in Parliament on amendments to her Brexit plan.

May faces a series of votes on various possible alternatives to the deal that’s now on the table. The government is opposing moves by rank-and-file politicians to force a delay in the exit day rather than crash out of the European Union without an agreement.

Labour’s Cooper Outlines Case for Amendment (11 a.m.)

Opposition Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper told the BBC that the U.K. must avoid leaving without a deal, and her amendment set for a vote this week was the best way to do it. She urged May to take responsibility to avoid no deal and take it off the table.

On the other hand, she couldn’t say for sure whether Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn would back her amendment and instruct party members to vote for it.

“You can’t keep waiting for other people to sort this out. You can’t just carry on with a kind of game of chicken,” she said on the “Andrew Marr Show” on the BBC. “In the end, someone has to take some responsibility and say, if the prime minister runs out of time she may need some more time, and that is not about blocking Brexit. That is about being responsible and making sure you can try and get a Brexit deal.”

Hancock Plays Down No-Deal Concerns (10:40 a.m.)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock dismissed fears about a no-deal Brexit, saying no one wanted such a scenario. He also rejected extending the March 29 deadline, saying more time doesn’t solve the problems, and argued that if you want to stop “no deal,” you have to vote for May’s deal.

He also said that as long as everyone behaves responsibly, there won’t be shortages of medicine in case of no deal. The government isn’t looking specifically at imposing martial law if there’s no deal, he said.

Ireland Rules Out Changes to the Backstop (10:25 a.m.)

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney went on the BBC to say that his country’s insistence on the backstop isn’t going to change. For Ireland, it’s about keeping the peace, and Coveney said that no one arguing against the backstop has come up with a viable alternative that would avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

This makes it look like an uphill battle for those pushing to ratify May’s deal stripped of the backstop, since Ireland and the EU would also have to agree to it.

Separately, Nigel Dodds, deputy head of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that props up May’s government and opposes the backstop, said the rhetoric about a return to a hard border has gotten out of hand. He accuses the Irish government of playing on people’s fears in a statement released on Sunday.

Education Secretary Sees ‘Common Ground’ for a Deal (10 a.m.)

Damian Hinds, one of May’s lieutenants, says there’s still a compromise to be found before the deadline to leave the European Union on March 29. On Sky News, he said he doesn’t want a no-deal outcome, but it’s important that such a option remains a possibility, and he dodged the question of whether he would resign if the country were headed for no deal.

All in all, it doesn’t sound like much has changed since Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said the ticking clock will focus people’s minds in an interview in Davos, Switzerland.

Labour Vows Whatever it Takes to Stop No Deal (9:30 a.m.)

Meanwhile Angela Rayner, an opposition Labour lawmaker, says her party will do whatever it takes to stop no deal. She argues that May has yet to budge and that it’s up to her to reach out.


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