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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal has better
chance of winning after M.P.s reject all her 'Plan B' options

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May’s underfire Brexit deal was thrown a lifeline Wednesday after MPs rejected a shopping list of alternative options.

It now paves the way for May to return to the House of Commons over the next few days to ask lawmakers to hold a third meaningful vote on her deal.

It has already been rejected twice by margins of 230 and 149 respectively, with May’s advisers saying they will not present it a third time unless it stands a good chance of winning.

With May struggling to win support for her deal, and with Brexit day approaching at express speed, MPs took the unusual step of taking control of the House of Commons Wednesday from government managers.

The more than 600 lawmakers spent the day debating their own options for Britain’s future with the European Union.

In what was an unusual process for MPs, they were asked to select their favorites from a list of eight options.

Do they want a no deal, or a so-called Norway deal, how about a second referendum, or staying in the EU Customs Union.

There was also the nuclear option of revoking article 50, the process that triggered Britain’s countdown to Brexit in the first place.

As MPs awaited the results it emerged that May will resign as Prime Minister if her own Brexit deal is approved in the coming days.

The chances of May’s deal edging towards winning was given a boost when big-name Conservatives Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, both said they would now support her deal.

If May succeeds in winning approval for her deal, Britain will leave the EU in May, almost two months later than the original March 29 exit date.

But the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which gives May’s government its majority in parliament, said late Wednesday it will still oppose May’s deal.

The aim of the indicative votes debated Wednesday by MPs was to find a consensus deal if May’s own Brexit deal remains deadlocked.

Speaker John Bercow announced the option list after MPs voted on Monday that they would control the business of the House of Commons after Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Brexit deal continued to face strong opposition.

Bercow announced the results, showing all eight were rejected by MPs.

A plan put forward by the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, for Britain to leave the EU but remain close to its customs union, was lost by just 8 votes (272 to 264).

One option calling for a second referendum lost by 295 votes to 268, with supporters saying even though they lost, their option gained more votes than May’s deal on its second outing.

After the results the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay urged MPs to now support May’s deal.

He told MPs: "The results of the process this House (of Commons) has gone through today strengthens our view that the deal the government has negotiated is the best option.

"If you believe in delivering on the referendum result by leaving the EU with a deal, then it’s necessary to back the Withdrawal Agreement - if we do not do that, then there are no guarantees about where this process will end.

"It’s for that reason that I call on all members from across this House in the national interest to back the Prime Minister’s deal."

May had faced calls over recent days for her to resign as prime minister as a price of support for her deal from opponents in her own Conservative Party.

She finally confirmed at a private meeting of her backbench MPs in the Houses of Parliament that she will quit if her deal is approved.

Downing Street issued details of what May said at her meeting.

She told her backbenchers:

"This has been a testing time for our country and our party.

"We’re nearly there.

"We’re almost ready to start a new chapter and build that brighter future.

"I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party.

"I know there is a desire for a new approach - and new leadership - in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations - and I won’t stand in the way of that."

She told her MPs she is prepared to leave 10 Downing Street earlier than intended in order to do what is right for the country and the Conservative party.

"I ask everyone to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty, to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the EU with a smooth and orderly exit," she told the MPs.

Boris Johnson told the Daily his decision to back May’s deal filled him with "pain" but was needed to prevent Parliament from "stealing Brexit".

"I’ve done this on behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit. I feel very, very sorry and though it fills me with pain, I’m going to have to support this thing," he said.

Conservative Party managers now face the task of winning over more MPs over the coming days to add to the growing number who have now changed their minds and said they will support the deal.

But political observers say there is still no guarantee that May’s deal will get through a third time, and if it does it would be by the narrowest of margins.

But that would bring to a stormy and messy end of Britain’s membership of the EU.
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UPDATES:

Brexit deadlock remains despite delayed departure

by Xinhua writers Gu Zhenqiu, Gui Tao LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British MPs on Wednesday voted against all eight alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, meaning a failure in the legislature to find consensus on how to replace the unpopular withdrawal agreement.

None of eight indicative votes gains majority, with customs union option coming closest.

The Brexit deadlock will hang on in the country as lawmakers fail to find a majority for an alternative to May’s Brexit deal.

The voting, which is aimed at breaking the current Brexit deadlock, took place after MPs voted to take control of Wednesday’s parliamentary business.

The vote results, which just confirmed the delay of Brexit date to April 12 or May 22, did not build on the consensus on how to push forward the stalled Brexit process.

The British government had already agreed, under international law, with the European Union (EU) for an extension to quitting the regional bloc until at least April 12.

All major differences remain unchanged over how the country will leave the EU.

However, one thing is for sure: Brexit will not happen on March 29, the original departure date.

At least 30 Tory hardline Eurosceptics were later said to still be opposed to May’s deal, news reports said here.

If true, it would still appear difficult for the prime minister to get her deal across the line.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, still showed no sign of falling in line to support her.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, criticized Wednesday the government for being "chaotic" and "incompetent" in the face of the Brexit impasse.

It was hoped that Wednesday’s parliamentary votes would establish a path towards the UK’s divorce from the EU.

However, the deadlock remained as none of the suggestions secured a clear majority on Wednesday night.

After the Wednesday vote, the British Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the results strengthened the government’s view that May’s Brexit deal was the best and only way forward.

On the lack of a majority for any of the eight alternatives put to the vote on Wednesday, he said:

"It demonstrates that there is no easy option here, that there is no easy way forward."

After long debate in the House of Commons, most of British lawmakers reject a second Brexit referendum and the no-deal Brexit, which is also the last thing the EU is willing to see.

Earlier Wednesday, May told MPs that she will quit as prime minister if the British parliament backs her Brexit plan, which was voted down twice by large margins in the parliament since January.

In appealing to Tory MPs to support her Brexit deal, the prime minister said that she will step down earlier than planned.

Her offer to stand down came in response to calls from a number of her backbenchers for her to name the date of her departure in return for their help in pushing the deal through the parliament.

The delay is intended to get more time to bridge gaps among major British Brexit players, but the tactics may need to be changed to break the Brexit deadlock.
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British Prime Minister Theresa May agrees to resign after Brexit deal delivered

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Theresa May on Wednesday agreed to step down as British Prime Minister after Brexit deal is delivered.

She made the statement when addressing the 1922 Committee, the Conservatives’ parliamentary group in the House of Commons.

"I know there is a desire for a new approach—and new leadership—in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations—and I won’t stand in the way of that," she said.

"But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit," she added.

"I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party," May told her fellow MPs.

She urged the committee to back the deal to "complete the historic duty", according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

The latest development came before MPs are set to vote on changing the Brexit date in UK law from March 29 and also vote on eight possible Brexit options in the indicative votes.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

British lawmakers vote for indicative votes on Brexit

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British lawmakers on Monday voted in favor of an amendment which would lead to a series of indicative votes on Wednesday on "alternative ways forward" on Brexit.

MPs voted 329 to 302 for the amendment tabled by Oliver Letwin.

The vote came after British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed the government would oppose the amendment.

May said she was "sceptical" about the process of indicative votes and would not commit to delivering the outcome of the votes.

Shortly before the vote, Richard Harrington resigned as business minister, saying he will vote in favor of the Letwin amendment.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Opposition Labor, had called his party to vote for the amendment, slamming the government’s approach to Brexit as a "national embarrassment. "

The latest development came after May admitted that there is "still not sufficient support" in the House of Commons for a third "Meaningful Vote" on her Brexit deal.
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Prime Minister Theresa May says "no sufficient support" for third Brexit deal vote

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that there is "still not sufficient support" in the House of Commons for a third vote on her Brexit deal.

She made the statement at the House of Commons as the European Commission announced that it had completed its preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit on April 12, warning that scenario was "increasingly likely."

May said that the government will oppose the amendment that would lead to a series of so-called indicative votes on alternatives to May’s deal.

May is expected to bring her Withdrawal Agreement back for a so-called third meaningful vote.

However, the government had earlier said that it won’t do that unless it was sure it had enough support to win such a vote.
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British ministers demand Theresa May leaving
from Downing Street: media reports

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The future of Theresa May’s tenure at 10 Downing Street was under threat with Sunday reports of a coup by her own ministers to unseat her dominating headlines in the main London Sunday newspapers.

The dramatic development at the heart of the British governing Conservative Party comes at what is scheduled to be Britain’s last week as a member of the European Union.

The BBC carried a more muted report in its bulletins, saying May could gain support for her twice-defeated Brexit deal if she promises to stand down as prime minister.

The broadsheet Sunday Times (ST) said that May was "at the mercy of a full-blown cabinet coup" as a group of senior ministers moved to oust her and replace her with Cabinet Minister David Lidington as the caretaker premier.

Lidington is May’s de-facto deputy and stands in for her when she is unavailable for her ministerial duties.

According to the ST’s front page article, plotters plan to confront May at a Downing Street cabinet meeting Monday and demand that she should announce her quitting.

"If she refuses, they will threaten mass resignations or publicly demand her head," the report added, saying it had spoken to 11 cabinet ministers.

One cabinet minister is quoted as saying:

"The end is nigh.

"She won’t be prime minister in 10 days."

The rift within the cabinet between May and her cabinet has erupted over the fate of the Brexit deal that May has agreed with Brussels.

Though the deal had already been rejected overwhelmingly by the House of Commons, the EU Council has given May more time to get the deal through her parliament, putting the planned departure from the bloc on Friday on hold.

However there is still no indication when, or if, May can guarantee a yes vote for her deal from the lawmakers.

May’s former policy adviser, Conservative MP George Freeman, said on his social media site:

"She’s done her best.

"But across the country you can see the anger.

"Everyone feels betrayed.

"Government’s gridlocked.

"Trust in democracy is collapsing.

"This can’t go on.

"We need a new PM who can reach out and build some sort of coalition for a Plan B (Brexit)."

Downing Street sources told the ST that May has not yet come to the conclusion that she should resign and is still being encouraged by her husband Philip May to fight on.

The latest development in the Brexit saga comes after an estimate 1 million people marched through central London Saturday demanding another referendum to decide the country’s EU Membership.

A online petition aimed at stopping Brexit has meanwhile gained more than four million signatures.
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'My deal or no deal', defiant PM May says in Brexit speech to the nation

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday she will not delay Britain’s departure from the European Union beyond June, ruling out a further extension if MPs reject her Brexit deal.

Her message from 10 Downing Street to the British people came after another tense day in the House of Commons when she announced she has asked EU Council President Donald Tusk to delay Britain’s exit from the bloc.

Her forceful message was throwing down the gauntlet to MPs that if they reject her deal there will be no deal, paving the way for Britain leaving the EU after a membership of 46 years.

Political commentators said the speech was a risky tactic for May because of the way she criticized MPs, the very politicians she needs to get her deal over the line.

It was a change to her stance last week when she said she would seek a longer extension from Brussels if MPs rejected her deal.

But its clear May was furious when this week the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that May could not present her Brexit bill a third time to MPs unless there were dramatic changes.

May heads to the EU Council meeting Thursday hoping to gather some words to add to her deal to enable it to be put before the Commons, probably next week, a third time.

It will be a risk factor for the Prime Minister because her deal has already been rejected twice, the first time by 230 votes, the highest ever defeat in British political history, and by 149 votes last week.

By insisting she would not keep Britain in the EU beyond June, May is effectively giving squabbling MPs the chance to accept her deal or risk no deal.

May started her statement by saying it was of great personal regret that Britain is not leaving on March 29, the departure date set in 2017 when the British government voted by a big margin to trigger the two-year countdown mechanism.

"I am absolutely sure you the public have had enough.

"You are tired of the infighting.

"You are tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows," May said.

She added people were tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when there are real concerns about children’s schools, the National Health Service, and knife crime.

"It is now time for MPs to decide," she added, "do they want to leave the EU with a deal which delivers on the result of the referendum, or do they want to leave without a deal."

May accused MPs of just being willing to say is what they do not want.

"Some argue that I am making the wrong choice, and I should ask for a longer extension to the end of the year or beyond, to give more time for politicians to argue over the way forward.

That would mean asking you to vote in European Elections, nearly three years after our country decided to leave," she said in her message.

Earlier Tusk Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, suggested that EU leaders will only approve May’s request for a three month delay if MPs approve her Brexit deal next week.

Tusk said in Brussels a short extension to Britain’s exit would be possible, but it would be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons.

May said in her short speech she will work night and day to try and convince MPs from her own Conservative Party, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP and others to back her deal.

Warning that a delay beyond June would mean British people having to vote in EU parliament elections, May said it would be bitter and divisive at the time that the country needs to come back together.

Reaction from MPs was swift with former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who backs a second referendum saying he will not be bullied by anybody in Government to support something he does not believe in.

Liberal Democrat politician Ed Davey commented:

"Theresa May has lost it.

"Threatening our country with a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is not leadership."

Media reports in London said that at a private meeting with leaders of political parties ahead of her statement, she ruled out an option of calling a snap election.
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Merkel reiterates will to fight for orderly Brexit "until the last hour"

BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) -- Ahead of the European summit starting on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her will to fight for an orderly Brexit "until the last day, until the last hour".

"One can certainly talk positively about a short extension" for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, said Merkel during a speech at the German parliament.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May had called upon the European Union to postpone the date of Britain’s withdrawal until June 30.

According to Merkel, the governmental leaders of the European members would probably comply in principle with Britain’s request for a postponement.

However, Merkel stressed that "the legitimacy of the European elections in May" must be preserved.

Merkel also stated that a condition for a postponement was that there would be a positive vote on the withdrawal treaty in the British parliament as negotiated with the EU.

If there would be no agreement in the parliament in London for the withdrawal treaty "then we will keep it open whether there should be another meeting before the resignation date", Merkel said.

A major issue would be the problems surrounding the so-called backstop.

It is still unclear how the border regulations between Northern Ireland which belongs to Britain, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, are to be designed.

Merkel stressed that the EU had made sufficient concessions on this controversial issue.

Meanwhile, she pointed out that Germany, as well as the other EU members, had been preparing for an unorderly Brexit with regards to issues like the rights of British citizens living in Germany.

Relations with Britain could not be as close after Britain left the EU, Merkel said.

However, "the door is wide open to close cooperation in friendship and mutual benefit from our side," she said.
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Where will Brexit go after Parliament Speaker rules out third vote of May deal

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- With 11 days to go before Britain’s planned exit from the Europe Union (EU), Prime Minister Theresa May was dealt a blow on Monday in her quest for a deal with Brussels.

In what one government official described as a constitutional crisis, the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow ruled that May’s Brexit deal could not have a third vote in Parliament.

Citing parliamentary convention going back centuries, Bercow said only a substantially changed deal could be presented to the members of parliament (MPs).

Despite facing challenges from a number of MPs, Bercow’s ruling sticks.

May had hoped to be able to put her deal forward Tuesday or Wednesday of this week ahead of the European Council meeting of leaders of EU member states on Thursday.

A plan had been mapped out that if the deal finally got through the House of Commons after two rejections, she would ask the EU for an extension of the March 29 departure date until June 30 to enable legal processes to be completed.

If MPs had voted against, MPs would have faced the prospect of Britain seeking an extension of possibly several years.

Bercow said a third vote on a Brexit deal would require renegotiation at EU level, and the test of whether May’s motion to parliament had substantially changed would be if changes to the deal were made in agreement with Brussels.

The Daily Telegraph in London said the Speaker’s intervention was likely to infuriate Downing Street, but in the Commons, his ruling has been welcomed by both sides of the Brexit divide for very different reasons.

"Whilst Remainers believe his decision increases the likelihood of a second referendum, Brexiteers think it brings the UK closer to a no deal exit," said the Daily Telegraph.

In one of the first responses to Bercow’s ruling, Robert Buckland, the solicitor general, said Britain is in a constitutional crisis.

Buckland said Bercow’s ruling would have huge reverberations for the Brexit process, including the possibility of asking Queen Elizabeth to end the parliamentary session.

"Frankly we could have done without this but it is something we are going to have to negotiate and deal with.

"This actually places an onus on the European Council to come up with some potential solutions that allows the Government to put a new motion down which addresses the concerns expressed," he noted.

Stephen Laws, a former draftsman of parliamentary legislation, has said the Speaker of the Commons speculated that May’s government could work around the problem by putting down a new motion insisting on a vote on the deal "notwithstanding the practice of the House (of Commons)."

There had been growing doubt that May would put forward a vote on her deal this week in any case.

Her senior ministers had spent the weekend on a charm offensive to seek support from Conservative MPs and the crucial support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to change their minds.

Senior ministers, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, said there would only be a third vote on the deal unless the government was reasonably certain of success.

On its first outing in the commons, the deal was rejected by 230 votes, the biggest defeat in British political history. In the second vote last week it was beaten by a smaller margin of 149 votes.

May is due to take part in the European Council meeting on Thursday when she plans to ask for Brexit to be delayed.

May is now expected to write to European Council President Donald Tusk seeking an extension of Article 50, the process that set Britain’s original departure date of March 29.
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May to ask for Brexit delay as uncertainty continues at Westminster

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Downing Street confirmed Tuesday that British Prime Minister Theresa May will write to European Council President Donald Tusk asking for Britain’s departure from the bloc to be delayed.

The latest development came after the bombshell decision by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow to stop May putting her Brexit deal to politicians for a third time.

Media in London quoted an official Downing Street spokesman as saying it has plunged Britain into a constitutional crisis.

Worldwide media converged on Westminster expecting May to present her deal to politicians for a third time on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It had already been defeated by a record 230 at the first attempt, and 149 at the second.

Instead there was an urgent Cabinet meeting of May’s most senior ministers to discuss the crisis at 10 Downing Street.

Bercow ruled Monday that he would block May presenting her deal for a vote by MPs unless it was substantially different to the deal already rejected.

After the urgent Cabinet meeting, May’s official spokesman confirmed the prime minister will write to Tusk seeking to extend Britain’s departure date beyond March 29.

The spokesman would not elaborate on the length of a delay May will ask for.

But May said last week she would like an extension running until June 30, or a longer period if her deal is not ratified by the British Parliament.

May’s spokesman insisted the prime minister has an "absolute determination" to make sure Britain leaves the EU with a deal as soon as possible.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said at a press conference in Brussels Tuesday that May that should not take it for granted that the EU will agree to an extension of Britain’s departure date, scheduled in just 10 days.

At the press conference in Brussels, Barnier said delaying Brexit could bring economic and political costs, and the EU would want reasons for an extension.

Any extension will need the support of the other 27 EU members.

May will meet the leaders of the other 27 EU members at an EU summit taking place on Thursday.

May is due to take questions Wednesday at her usually PMQ’s, Prime Minister’s Questions, in the House of Commons when she could be asked to comment on the latest EU situation.

The next major Brexit debate is scheduled to take place in the House of Commons on Monday when MPs will be told the result of May’s talks.

Under current legislation Britain’s membership of the EU will come to an end next week, on May 29, unless a change is made to the law that set the departure date.
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Merkel willing to fight for orderly Brexit "until last second"

by Moritz Rommerskirchen BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday during the Global Solutions Summit that she is willing to fight "until the last second" of March 29 for an orderly Brexit.

There would not be much time left, but a few days would still remain, Merkel said on Tuesday, 10 days prior to the scheduled date for the Brexit.

The outcome of the next summit of the European Union on Thursday would be unpredictable because "far too much is in flow", the German Chancellor added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to suggest to the European member states to postpone Great Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

During the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, which was held for the third time, over 200 actors from politics, industry and science are delivering speeches on topics like climate change, trade and investment as well as social cohesion.

Regarding current global trade conflicts Merkel stressed that "non-tariff trade barriers" were much bigger challenges than tariffs.

"The big question of multilateralism will be non-tariff barriers" such as varying environmental, social or health standards in different countries, Merkel stressed.

Referring to global trade conflicts, Merkel said one should not forget that the problems of international agreements would have already existed before the Trump government.

During the presidency of former U.S. president Barack Obama, regulations of the World Trade Organization would have repeatedly led to disputes and bilateral trade agreements, according to Merkel.

Such bilateral trade agreements would be good, but they would also be only the "second best solution" after global solutions, Chancellor Merkel added.

             

 

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