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Prime Minister Theresa May faces tough
grilling in Commons over Brexit vote deal

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May faced possibly the toughest two and half hours of her premiership Monday after waves of British MPs spoke against the deal she had brokered for Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU).

Media reports say around 90 of the Conservative backbench MPs have so far said they will vote against her deal, essentially making it an impossible mission unless they change their minds.

Even normally loyal Conservative MPs told May they could not support the agreement and political statement endorsed by EU leaders in Brussels on Sunday.

With confirmation that the so-called Meaningful Vote on Brexit is slated for Dec. 11, May seems to be staring defeat in the face if Monday’s reaction across the political divides is the litmus test.

House of Commons officials say the big debate, expected to be bloody fierce, will span five full days, starting on Dec. 4.

A vote against the deal would plunge the whole Brexit scenario into unchartered water, including the prospect of Britain leaving the bloc with no deal, relying on WTO terms for its future trading with its former EU member states.

May defended the deal during an intense and often angry debate in the chamber of the House of Commons, lasting two hours and 36 minutes.

Only a handful of MPs supported her deal, while dozens speaking against it.

Still, May insisted the deal was good for Britain, and delivered the result of the June 2016 referendum when Britain voted to end its EU membership.

The prime minister has started the week on a so-called charm offensive to "sell" her deal to the people of Britain.

But the big question remains what would happen if, as now seems possible, there is a No vote on Dec. 11?

May has refused to answer when asked if she would quit Number 10 if there is a vote against her deal.

Political experts say options could include Britain asking for an extension of the Article 50 period which set a two-year timetable, ending next March for the so-called divorce.

British negotiators could ask for the deal to be tweaked to make it more palatable to British MPs.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker insisted in Brussels Sunday that there would no changes to the deal.

Speaking in the House of Commons, May said she did not pretend that either Britain or the EU are entirely happy with the arrangements.

May said there was no alternative deal that honors the government’s commitments to Northern Ireland which does not involve an insurance policy over the issue of the border with Ireland.

Looking towards Dec. 11, May said there is a choice the House of Commons will have to make.

"We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people," she said.

"Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.

"Because no-one knows what would happen if this deal doesn’t pass.

"It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail."

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, told May that ploughing on with a deal opposed by the public and MPs was an act of national self-harm.

Politicians from all of the other parties, the Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh Nationalist parties, the Democratic Unionist Party, all indicated strong opposition.

May’s newly appointed Brexit Secretary, Steve Barclay, the third politician to hold the job this year, warned the Dec. 11 date for the big vote would be a challenge.

If Parliament rejects the deal, the country would enter "unchartered waters," Barclay said.

The Guardian newspaper commented Monday night:

"The scale of the opposition made it extremely hard to see how she (May) could turn opinion around in time for the vote, now scheduled for a fortnight tomorrow."

The Daily Telegraph meanwhile said Brexiteers from May’s Conservative Party said she hadn’t a prayer of winning the vote, with one saying her deal’s as dead as a dodo, while another MP said May needs a Plan B.

May’s Conservative Party holds 316 seats in the House of Commons, relying on support from the 10 Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs to give her a potential of 326 votes, a majority of one.

If the 10 DUP politicians and the 90 Conservative MPs vote with opposition parties on Dec. 11, it could see May losing by a brutal landslide, leaving her more than 100 short of a majority.

Still, May remained determined to see the deal through.

"The British people want MPs to get on with a deal and allow the country to come together," she said.
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UPDATES and EARLIER REPORTS:

British Prime Minister Theresa May applies circuitous tactics
in fighting to win parliamentary support for her Brexit deal

by Xinhua writer Gu Zhenqiu LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday embarked on an election-style campaign across the country, leaving behind a hostile House of Commons, which will cast the make-or-break vote on her Brexit deal on Dec. 11 after five days of debate by members of parliament.

The prime minister on Tuesday morning headed to Wales before her trips to Northern Ireland and Scotland later this week, followed by travels in England in a week’s time after she returns from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

With the beginning of the two-week campaign, May is applying circuitous tactics by going over the heads of members of parliament to appeal directly to the whole nation to back her Brexit deal, which won formal endorsement by the 27 leaders of the European Union (EU) member states.

Downing Street believes a direct appeal to voters will help get her controversial deal through the parliament, where 90 Tory members publicly stated that they will vote against the EU-UK agreement on how Britain will leave the regional bloc on March 29 next year.

As things stand, May knows she faces defeat when the deal comes before the House of Commons next month as enemies on all sides gang up on her.

The "meaningful vote", as described by the British government, is believed to be the most significant in the United Kingdom in more than half a century since the House of Commons decided in 1971 to join the EU.

In fact, it is members of parliament, not voters across the nation, who will cast the "meaningful vote."

May’s strategists hope that by stirring up a supportive public mood, they can force the politicians to shut out the tearoom chatter in Westminster and help her deliver Brexit in her own way.

In the upcoming vote, there is only one candidate—the prime minister herself, and only one policy—the Brexit deal.

May has repeatedly ruled out a second referendum, "Plan B" and any possible amendments to her Brexit plans.

The signs of May’s circuitous tactics emerged shortly after the European leaders supported the 585-page draft withdrawal agreement and 26-page political declaration.

The prime minister asked the members of parliament to "listen" to their constitutes who are fed up with Brexit and want to "move on."

Meanwhile, the prime minister also wrote an open letter to the British people imploring voters to put pressure on wavering members of parliament to back her.

She hopes it might just give her the numbers she needs to get her Brexit plans through a divided parliament and reunite a warring nation.

"We will then begin a new chapter in our national life.

"I want that to be a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country," she said in the letter.

"It must put aside the labels of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ for good and we come together again as one people."

Faced with a risk of a heavy defeat in the parliament, the prime minister urged all her cabinet to join her in trying to sell the deal.

In her previous efforts, she also tried to win over members of parliament by mobilizing public and business opinion in favor of her Brexit deal.

"My deal delivers for every corner of the UK and I will work hard to strengthen the bonds that unite us," she said.
.

European Union backs Brexit deal as United Kingdom Prime Minister
Theresa May faces hard battle to win support from Westminster MPs

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The deal that will see Britain ending its membership of the European Union (EU) was approved in Brussels Sunday at a special summit of the European Council.

There was a stark message from Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, to British politicians who have threatened to reject the deal.

He said: "Those who think that by rejecting this deal will have a better deal will be disappointed within seconds the rejection of this deal."

Juncker described Britain’s decision to leave the EU as a sad moment and a tragedy, but he added that he did not think Britain would be a third country (non-EU member) like any other third country.

EU Council President Donald Tusk added: "This is the only deal possible."

Leaders of EU member states backed both the 585-page withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc, as well as the political declaration detailing what the UK-EU relationship may be like after Brexit.

The first confirmation of the decision in Brussels came in a one-sentence social media message from the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk.

He simply said: "EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future of EU-UK declarations."

The stage is set for Britain to end its membership after 45 years on March 29 next year, though the following day an implementation period will start meaning there will be no changes until the end of 2020.

At the Brussels’ press conference Tusk said the EU and Britain would remain friends until the end of days, and one day longer.

He added: "Ahead of us is the difficult process of ratification as well as further negotiation."

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said at the conference:

"Now is the time for everyone to take responsibility."

There was immediate reaction from opponents of the deal, indicating that British Prime Minister Theresa May will struggle to win vital backing for today’s deal when the British House of Commons has its say around Dec. 10.

That decision could see Britain crashing out of the EU next March with no deal.

Opposition members of parliament, as well as MPs from May’s own Conservative Party have threatened to reject the deal.

May, speaking at a media conference, said today’s decision marks the culmination of talks with the EU, but also the start of a crucial national debate.

MPs in Britain, she added, will vote whether to support the deal before Christmas.

Asked if she had a plan B if the deal is rejected by MPs, May said EU leaders had said this was the only possible deal.

"It’s not the case that there is another negotiation to be done.

"This is the deal that’s been agreed, it’s the only deal that’s on the table," May said.

May would not be drawn when asked by several journalists if she would resign as prime minister if the House of Commons rejected her deal.

Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, said:

"This is a bad deal for our country.

"It’s a failure of negotiation by a Prime Minister who has spent more time arguing with her party than working in the national interest.

"The result is a deal that no-one supports. Labour will vote against it."

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), described May’s proposals as worse than no deal, and worse than staying in the EU.

May relies on the 10 DUP votes at Westminster to give her minority government its slender majority.

Dodds said in a BBC radio interview:

"The government is going to spend the next fortnight engaged in all sorts of project fear initiatives in order to try to get MPs to vote for something that is clearly unsatisfactory."

He added the DUP would not be bought off, saying there is absolutely no way the deal can go through.

In an attempt to win public support for the deal Britain’s main national Sunday newspapers published a direct plea from May to the British public.

May said in her letter:

"It will be a deal that is in our national interest, one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’," adding it will honor the result of the 2016 referendum when British people voted by a 52-48 margin to leave the EU.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a London television interview, described the deal as a compromise, saying it was not perfect, but it could be a staging post to a situation giving Britain 100 percent of what it wants.

Britain’s mainland Europe neighbors lamented the departure. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said:

"This is a historical day, which leaves mixed feelings.

"It’s tragic that the UK is leaving the European Union."

Merkel refused to be drawn on the consequences of the deal being rejected by the British parliament.

May will get a sense of Westminster politicians Monday when she addresses the House of Commons.

Conservative party managers hope that enough MPs will rally around May to ensure the parliamentary green light is given.
.

More businesses in Britain traded internationally
in year after Brexit vote, survey reveals

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Almost 15 percent of all businesses in Britain traded internationally in 2017, up in the first full year after the decision in the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union (EU), figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed Tuesday.

The survey revealed that non-financial services remained the largest sector trading internationally, accounting for 53.1 percent of the total international traders in Britain.

This was followed by the distribution sector, with 31.2 percent of the number of businesses reporting international trade.

ONS said there were more importers than exporters, with estimated numbers of 247,500 and 235,800 respectively.

Of the importers, a majority of them imported goods rather than services.

For exports, more businesses exported services than goods (146,600 and 115,200 respectively).

England boasts the largest number of businesses trading internationally in Britain, making up 93 percent of the total, while London accounted for 26 percent of the total.

Of all of the businesses trading internationally 98.7 percent were small-and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) employing less than 250 employees,which means 14.2 percent of the total number of SMEs traded internationally in 2017.

In comparison, 53.8 percent of large businesses in Britain with 250 or more staff traded internationally.

Foreign-owned businesses represented 5 percent of the total number of businesses trading internationally.
.

British banking system would survive even worst Brexit: Bank of England

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The British banking system would survive the worst Brexit that would throw at it, according to comprehensive set of tests revealed by the Bank of England (BoE) on Wednesday.

A series of tests run on the major financial institutions operating in Britain earlier in the year were issued by the BoE’s financial sector regulator the Financial Policy Committee (FPC).

The results of the tests were contained in the FPC’s November Financial Stability Report (FSR) released late on Wednesday afternoon.

In the 2018 stress test the BoE modelled a British GDP fall of 4.75 percent, a rise in the jobless rate to 9.5 percent, a property price fall of 33 percent and a commercial property fall of 40 percent.

In addition, the model contained a 27 percent fall in the sterling rate and a rise in inflation to 4 percent, and a fall in global GDP of 2.4 percent.

The FSR said that for the first time since its inception in 2008 in the wake of the financial crisis, all seven financial institutions tested passed the test.

The stress test contained a global recession, making it a more severe strain on the British economy than the worst-case scenario of a Disorderly Brexit, details of which the BoE released earlier in the day.

BoE governor Mark Carney told journalists at a press conference to launch the FSR that Brexit was the biggest influence on economic prospects.

He said: "As today’s stress tests reveal, the core of our financial system is strong—major banks have capital ratios three and a half times higher than before the financial crisis."

He added: "Based on a comparison with the 2018 stress test, the FPC judges that the UK banking system is strong enough to serve ... in the event of a disorderly Brexit."

The BoE expressed concern in the FSR at potential disruption that derivatives traders and UK central counterparties (CCPs) faced with uncertainty over the legal standing of outstanding derivatives trades and swaps which would mature after the formal Brexit date of March 29.

The BoE welcomed the European Commission’s recent statement that it is willing to act to ensure that EU counterparties can continue to clear their derivatives at UK CCPs after March 2019.

The BoE added: "However without greater clarity on the scope, conditions and timing of the prospective EU action, the contracts that EU members have cleared with UK CCPs would need to be closed out or transferred by March 2019."

The FPC said it would retain its current countercyclical capital buffer (CCyB) at 1 percent, but would move the buffer up or down if necessary depending on Brexit circumstances.

The BoE last cut the CCyB in July 2016 to mitigate any bad reaction following the Brexit referendum vote, and said that a cut to 0 percent would give banks and financial institutions an additional 250 billion pounds (320 billion U.S. dollars) of leeway. (1 pound = 1.28 U.S. dollars)
.

United Kingdom economy suffers from whatever
Brexit scenario: Controversial goverment report 

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The British government issued economic forecasts on Wednesday which showed that Britain could see a 3.9-percent drop in GDP over the coming 15 years under Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

The 83-page report produced jointly by various departments across the British government including the Treasury modeled several different Brexit outcomes, and compared those with current growth in GDP.

The government did not provide a detailed cost of this type of Brexit, but British media reported experts estimating that it would have an annual debit effect of 100 billion pounds (128.3 billion U.S. dollars) 15 years from now.

In event of worst outcome, the No Deal Brexit, which would take place if Britain and the EU did not support the agreement reached between May and the EU, Britain’s GDP would decline by 9.3 percent in 15 years’ time than if the UK had remained in the EU.

Several Brexit outcomes were modeled in the government report.

The report said under a Canada-style deal, the UK would be 4.9 percent worse off than remaining in the EU while the most favorable Brexit outcome was seen if Britain had frictionless trade and kept free movement of people, which would see the economy suffer just a 1.4 percent hit.

If Britain kept frictionless trade but restricted free movement of people there would be a 2.5-percent decline.
.

Britain could lose eight percentage points of GDP growth
with 'Disorderly Brexit' suggests Bank of England report

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- A "Disorderly Brexit" could cost Britain eight percentage points of potential GDP growth over the next five years, the Bank of England (BoE) said in a report released on Wednesday.

The BoE said the loss of 8 percentage points in potential GDP growth between November this year and the end of 2023 could occur in what it found to be the worst-case scenario for Brexit when the exit process formally ends but without any deal on trade or tariffs.

Under this worst-case scenario, dubbed a Disorderly Brexit by the BoE in its EU Withdrawal Report, there would be no deal between Britain and the 27 remaining nations in the EU bloc, and both the EU and Britain would impose tariffs on goods and services,

"The reduction in openness will act to reduce the UK economy’s productive capacity and in most scenarios its rate of growth in the short term.

"Leaving the EU abruptly, without a withdrawal agreement and implementation period would amplify these effects," The BoE report noted.

A Disorderly Brexit would also mean that Britain’s profitable financial sector would trade with the EU under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, raising barriers and costs.

In addition, Britain’s trade under this Disorderly Brexit would suffer a serious blow outside the EU, with Britain losing any of the benefits of trade treaties negotiated until now by the EU, which it currently enjoys.

The BoE report said: "Brexit is unique.

"Large negative supply shocks are relatively rare, and there is no precedent of an advanced economy withdrawing from a trade agreement as deep and complex as the EU."

The strong negative effects of the Disorderly Brexit would see a sharp rise in unemployment, and an increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation to 6.5 percent (CPI October rate is 2.4 percent).

House prices would fall 30 percent, and commercial property prices by 48 percent, while there would be an outflow of workers from the British economy, with a subsequent problem for employers of a mismatch between jobs open and skilled workers to fill the posts.

The BoE stressed this was the worst-case scenario and provided a series of less gloomy possible outcomes.

Under the BoE’s model of a Disruptive Brexit, which would see tariffs and other barriers between Britain and the EU suddenly introduced, Britain would retain the benefit of the EU’s trade deals negotiated up to now and would recognise EU product standards, however the EU would not reciprocate for British goods.

Under the "Disruptive Brexit", GDP would lose 3 percent of its potential growth over the next five years, joblessness would again rise sharply but to 5.75 percent and CPI inflation would peak at 4.25 percent.

The BoE also modelled Brexit scenarios based on the agreement between the British government and the EU, with two separate levels of a deal labelled as Close Deal and Less Close Deal.

The best outcome modelled was for Britain to "retain a Close Economic Partnership with the EU", which would see comprehensive arrangements for free trade in goods and some trade in business and financial services.

Under the Close Deal scenario, GDP growth would gain 1.75 percentage points over its current path, with both inflation and unemployment falling below their current projected levels for most of the five years up to the end of 2023.

The BoE modelled with its Less Close Deal scenario a loss of 0.75 percentage points to GDP growth with marginal rises in both jobless rates and inflation rates.

The BoE drew up its EU Withdrawal report at the request of British Parliament’s House of Commons Treasury Committee, and the report will be delivered to committee members on Thursday and will be available to inform Members of Parliament (MPs) in their vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement with the EU, which is scheduled for December 11.
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SEE ALSO:

BREXIT: Northern Ireland politicians could still threaten May deal

BREXIT: As last minute talks continue what could 'No Deal' mean

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FURTHER READING:

United States and United Kingdom reach post-Brexit 'Open Skies' deal on air services

Theresa May could suffer 200-vote defeat when Commons decides on her Brexit deal

             

 

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