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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

British business leaders call for taking 'No Deal' option off table

by Geoffrey Cox LONDON United Kinghdom (Xinhua) -- British business leaders called for taking the no-deal option off the table to minimize disruption to the economy, after the UK parliament voted down Prime Minister Theresa May’s revised Brexit deal on Tuesday evening.

Members of Parliament (MPs) voted 391-242 against the revised deal reached between the British government and the European Union in last-ditch talks in Strasbourg, France on Monday.

It was the second heavy defeat for the Brexit deal since it was rejected by a margin of 230 in January.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of Confederation of British Industry, said:

"Extending Article 50 to close the door on a March no-deal is now urgent.

"It should be as short as realistically possible and backed by a clear plan.

"Conservatives must consign their red lines to history, while Labour must come to the table with a genuine commitment to solutions."

"It’s time for Parliament to stop this circus," she said.

Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer of TheCityUK, said:

"We need a rapid agreement on the way forward to protect customers and jobs.

"This is a vital part of keeping the UK at the top of the global premier league of international financial centers - something that is in the interests of customers at home and across Europe."

"Parliament must demonstrate that it will heed these repeated warnings.

"It is profoundly obvious that neither government nor many businesses are ready for a disorderly exit - and this must not be allowed to happen on March 29th, whether by default or by design," said Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.

"Businesses have been failed over and over again by Westminster in recent months, but allowing a messy and disorderly exit on March 29th would take political negligence to new extremes," Marshall said.

The British pound became volatile after the vote.

Market watchers say the vote has undoubtedly been the focus for currency markets and the value of pound will be subject to Brexit uncertainties in the coming days as parliament members will vote to decide whether they support a no-deal Brexit or delayed Brexit.

The pound has fluctuated and been particularly sensitive to the Brexit process.

It rose strongly on hopes of a Brexit deal after Theresa May said on Monday she had secured "legally binding" changes from the EU to the Irish backstop, which means the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland, could not "become permanent".

However, the British currency quickly began to shed all its previous gains since earlier Tuesday when British Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the legal risk of the UK being tied to EU rules after Brexit "remains unchanged", and the country would not be able to leave the backstop without EU agreement.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Theresa May’s Brexit deal defeat plunges
United Kingdom into further uncertainty

by Oliver Jarvis LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- It was yet another loss on Tuesday night for British Prime Minister Theresa May, as her Brexit deal was firmly rejected by Parliament.

A result of 391 to 242 votes was a devastating blow to May and could potentially delay the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU), threaten May’s hold on power or derail Brexit entirely.

The vote has left the nation with little idea of a way forward, just 17 days before the UK is due to leave the EU.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Dr Mark Garnett, a Senior Lecturer in Politics at Lancaster University, said that the result added to the Brexit uncertainty.

"Parliament is sharply divided on when, how and even whether to proceed with Brexit, and whether to call an election or a second referendum," Dr Garnett said.

The ball now falls back into the court of the prime minister, who is still recovering from a majority defeat of 149.

There will be another vote on Wednesday for MPs to decide on a no-deal Brexit. Dr Garnett questions how this result will affect May’s future.

"No prime minister has ever experienced humiliation on this scale, and it’s difficult to imagine any previous prime minister sticking to office in these circumstances," Garnett told Xinhua.

European Council President Donald Tusk said that the EU was "disappointed" by Tuesday’s vote result - and that it has done "all that is possible to reach an agreement" with the UK.

"Given the additional assurances provided by the EU in December, January and yesterday, it is difficult to see what more we can do.

"If there is a solution to the current impasse it can only be found in London," Tusk said in a statement, supplied by his spokesman.

"With only 17 days left to 29 March, today’s vote has significantly increased the likelihood of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

"We will continue our no-deal preparations and ensure that we will be ready if such a scenario arises," Tusk said.

Prof Geraint Johnes, a Professor of Economics at Lancaster University, told Xinhua that Parliament must come together to avoid a ‘no-deal’ - or settle for a second referendum.

"Following this further defeat in parliament for Mrs May’s deal, there will be votes on a no deal option and then probably on a proposal to extend the Article 50 process.

"No deal is highly unlikely to be supported, so parliament will need at some stage to agree on a way forward," Prof Johnes said.

"The most likely consensus is either around a softer Brexit or on putting the May deal to the public in a second referendum.

"Whether Mrs May is able to pivot to either of these positions remains to be seen, as she has clearly been very much weakened by tonight’s developments.

"It is not clear either, however, that any other prospective leader can emerge who could pivot in the direction of a solution."

Responding to the result of Tuesday’s meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that the public would feel the brunt of MPs’ ‘squabbling’.

"Even as the Brexit clock approaches midnight, MPs continue to squabble.

"Yet it is the public who will feel the impact of a no deal Brexit - tariffs, non-tariff barriers and currency depreciation will all push up costs and reduce the choice on the shelves we currently enjoy."

"Businesses are exasperated by the lack of clarity over their future trading arrangements.

"Hundreds of ships are currently sailing towards Britain without a clear understanding of the tariffs, checks, or documentation requirements, they will face when they arrive.

"Politicians must swallow their pride and find an agreement that can command the support of the House."

But according to Mark Garnett, the current UK political climate is prone to throwing up surprises.

"When politicians are polarised, normally the most promising route to a resolution lies in a compromise position and a leader who can see the merits in both sides.

"This is another way in which ‘Brexit’ has upset normal calculations," Garnett told Xinhua.

To Garnett, leaving without a deal is unthinkable.

He believes that there will be an extension of the deadline, and the extra time will be used to make progress towards an eventual ‘soft Brexit’.

With a huge defeat for prime minister May Tuesday night, many are wondering if a second referendum could well be on the cards.
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Theresa May’s defeat throws Brexit process into stormy water

by Larry Neild and Gu Zhenqiu LONDON United Kinghdom (Xinhua) -- British parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, throwing the country’s Brexit process into further chaos.

The vote outcome brought further confusions on how Britain will leave the European Union (EU) and how the island country will forge new relations with the world’s largest trading bloc after the divorce.

MPs voted by 391 votes to 242, a margin of 149, to reject the revised Brexit deal May presented to the House of Commons, with 75 MPs from May’s Conservative Party voting against the deal.

With the prime minister’s second defeat over Brexit since January, the British people are facing a hard choice between no-deal Brexit or a delayed Brexit.

MPs are expected to return to the British parliament Wednesday to vote on whether they want to rule out Britain leaving the EU without a deal. If the motion fails to pass the parliament on Wednesday, MPs will vote on Thursday on whether to put off the Brexit date.

The result was a little bit less brutal for May than in January when MPs threw out her Brexit deal by a margin of 230, the highest ever defeat in British political history.

Before the vote, May had hoped that having won changes to her deal, including legally binding commitments, she may just have climbed what seemed an impossible mountain.

She had made a last-minute dash Monday to Strasbourg, France, to hold talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Before Monday’s surprise trip, British politicians had predicted a loss in the vote by between 100 and 150 votes. With the latest changes, most still thought May would struggle to win Tuesday night. May told MPs she profoundly regretted the result.

MPs voted down May’s Brexit deal, which was reached by London and Brussels after long and painful negotiations, by a big margin and demanded legally binding changes.

May harbored a hope that armed with changes that enabled her to present an amended deal to MPs. But those hopes were dashed when her Attorney General Geoffrey Cox believed what was a devastating body blow to May.

The big stumbling block to the deal was the question of a so-called backstop to ensure there was no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Once Britain leaves the EU, the 500-kilometer border will become an EU frontier.

Cox warned that even with the changes made in Strasbourg, Britain could still be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.

He said the new documents did not deliver legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement between Britain and the EU.

That was enough to lead the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, which props up May’s minority government, and the pro-leave European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs, to announce they would vote against May’s Brexit bill.

Once the plug had been pulled by the DUP and the ERG, there was no hope of May winning.

Both had insisted they would not support any deal that could have left Britain locked into EU rules without having any unilateral way of escaping control from Brussels.

Other MPs had different reasons for opposing May’s deal, but the Irish backstop issue in the end proved to be a problem too far.

The British Parliament, with just over a fortnight to the March 29 departure date, has now been plunged into uncertain, and stormy waters.

May admitted that MPs now face an unenviable choice of what to do next.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, responded to May’s defeat with a call for a general election.

He said the Brexit deal was now dead, an opinion echoed by Ian Blackford, leader at Westminster of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), who described the result as a humiliation for May.

There have also been calls for May to be replaced as prime minister.

On Wednesday, MPs will debate on whether they want to rule out a no-deal Brexit, and depending on the result, a second vote to be held on Thursday on seeking an extension of the departure date.

May said she is conscious of the potential damage that leaving the EU without a deal would do, but she added that she will urge the House of Commons to vote against a no-deal Brexit.

The prediction is MPs will rule out leaving the EU unless there is a deal, leaving an extension of Britain’s departure more likely. What remains unknown is just how long that extension would be.
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FURTHER READING:

Opinion: Theresa May’s grand Brexit plan fails spectacularly: The prime minister’s plans are a shambles

Incredibly, a poll conducted over the last five days has given the Tories a 10-point
lead over Labour despite general chaos enveloping the Government over Brexit

             

 

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