May Promises Brexiteers No Second Referendum: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May has called European leaders and met with members of her Cabinet as she tries to find a compromise on Brexit that she can sell to the British Parliament. She needs to present at least an outline of a plan for the way ahead on Monday.

Key Developments

  • May promises Brexiteers she won’t cave on red lines, and won’t allow a second referendum (5:30 p.m.)
  • May speaks to Angela Merkel, Mark Rutte, more calls planned over weekend (11:30 a.m.)
  • Boris Johnson warns against delaying Brexit (11:15 a.m.)

Corbyn Tells May She Must Rule Out No-Deal (8:45 p.m.)

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he won’t engage in talks with May unless she rules out a no-deal Brexit. In a letter to the PM, Corbyn called May’s talks with MPs little more than an exercise to play for time. She is “sticking rigidly” to the same plan that was shot down by Parliament earlier this week, he wrote.

May Tells Brexiteers No Second Referendum (5:30 p.m.)

May met some pro-Brexit Cabinet ministers and insisted she is not considering a second referendum, or allowing the U.K. to stay in the customs union, people familiar with the matter said.

Cabinet ministers including Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom and Sajid Javid spoke to May either face to face or on the phone on the next steps for Brexit. She agreed that a solution is needed for the Irish border backstop, even though the EU is reluctant to reopen the negotiations.

But on the one question everybody’s asking -- what will she do next -- the prime minister remained tight-lipped.

Bettel: May Has Days to Find Compromise (3:30 p.m.)

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said time is running out for May to avoid the “worst scenario” of a no-deal Brexit, and that she needs to find an alternative solution within days to present to the EU leaders.

“An unregulated Brexit remains the worst option, both for the rights of citizens and also economic relationships between the U.K. and the EU,” Bettel told reporters, adding the prospect of a no deal “is looking ever greater.”

Meanwhile Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said companies should prepare for all Brexit scenarios. “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” he told reporters in The Hague, following his conversation with May earlier. “We don’t know if the Brits are well prepared for Brexit.”

Lib Dems Want May’s Deal vs. Remain in Second Vote (2 p.m.)

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman who met Thursday with May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, told Bloomberg he sees a route to a second referendum pitting May’s deal against remaining in the European Union.

“It’s been tested in Parliament and it was an overwhelming raspberry,” Brake said of May’s agreement with Brussels. “But she obviously feels that Parliament is misguided, and she’s adamant that her deal delivers Brexit for the people. Well, let’s put it to the test.”

In his meeting with Lidington, Brake said he laid out his party’s view that a no-deal Brexit should be ruled out, and explained how a people’s vote could be staged. Though Lidington responded with analysis he argued showed a second referendum would take too long, Brake also said the government showed a “continued willingness to engage,” which his party would also do.

May to Discuss Brexit With EU’s Juncker (12:15 p.m.)

May will hold discussions with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as part of her round of calls this afternoon, according to his spokesman, Margaritas Schinas. The call is at the request of the prime minister.

“I don’t know how decisive this will or will not be,” Schinas said.

May Speaks to Merkel, Rutte and Plans More Calls (11:30 a.m.)

May has started the process of trying to persuade European Union leaders to give her a better deal that will win the support of Parliament. May spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday, the premier’s spokeswoman Alison Donnelly told reporters. The conversation with Merkel was “constructive,” as always, Donnelly added, and further phone calls with EU leaders can be expected over the weekend.

May’s other task -- to find a consensus in London -- continues. She’s holding meetings with members of her Cabinet on Friday, in small groups and individually. So far, conversations with opposition politicians have failed to yield any fruit.

Johnson: Delaying Article 50 Would Betray Voters (11:15 a.m.)

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has warned in a speech that voters will lose faith if the government extends the Article 50 Brexit deadline, delaying the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU beyond March 29. The former cabinet minister -- widely seen as a man with leadership ambitions -- said even discussing a delay to Brexit weakens Britain’s negotiating position in Brussels.

While Johnson isn’t in the Cabinet any more, his views still matter. May has said she will stand down as Conservative Party leader before the next election, scheduled to be held in 2022, meaning politicians with hopes of becoming prime minister are already preparing their campaigns. After quitting the cabinet over May’s soft Brexit plan, Johnson is popular with the party members who will choose the next leader.

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