May Seeks to Bridge National Divide as Brexit Divisions Persist

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May urged Britons to abandon the Leave-Remain split that has beset the country since the Brexit referendum in 2016.

After 2 1/2 years of division, it’s time to “put aside our differences and focus on what really matters,” the U.K. premier wrote in a letter to readers of the Daily Express newspaper. In a missive also aimed at squabbling Conservative members of Parliament, she said voters “don’t talk only about Europe,” but rather they care about schools, homes and the National Health Service.

“The sooner MPs agree the right Brexit deal, the sooner we can all get back to dealing with those issues,” May wrote. “It won’t be easy and there is a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

May’s hardest task is to persuade those lawmakers to approve the Brexit deal she’s painstakingly negotiated with the European Union. She pulled a vote on it in Parliament earlier this month, acknowledging she didn’t have the support to win it, and has rescheduled it for the week beginning Jan. 14. She’s also seeking additional reassurances from the EU that might win around her own rebellious lawmakers and her allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

In the meantime, the government has stepped up preparations for a no-deal withdrawal from the bloc on March 29, including asking pharmaceutical companies and supermarkets to stockpile drugs and food, and putting 3,500 troops on standby. While lawmakers return to Parliament on Jan. 7, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will chair a meeting of ministers earlier in the new year in order to plan for Britain’s EU departure, according to a government official.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.