British MPs debate Brexit alternatives for new round of Parliament votes - Eastern Mirror
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British MPs debate Brexit alternatives for new round of Parliament votes

By PTI Updated: Apr 01, 2019 11:25 pm
¬†From left, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, Youth Justice Board co-chair Roy Sefa-Attakora, Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, take part in a serious youth violence summit in Downing Street, London, Monday April 1, 2019. The summit includes leaders from major British cities and other involved agencies, in response to an escalation of knife-related crime in Britain. AP/PTI

London, April 1 (PTI): British lawmakers on Monday continued to debate possible alternatives to UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union (EU) divorce bill, already rejected three times by the House of Commons.

In what will be seen as a softer Brexit option, a Customs Union with the EU is believed to be the most popular of the ideas under consideration.

A common UK-EU Customs Union would allow businesses to move goods around the EU without tariffs but its membership would bar the UK from striking independent trade deals after Brexit including with countries like India.

Many Brexiters on the Conservative benches, including within the Cabinet, are vehemently opposed to accepting such an option.

In the first set of indicative, non-binding votes held last week, none of the many alternatives including revoking Article 50 to delay or cancel Brexit or call for a second referendum on Brexit had emerged as a clear frontrunner.

Other options on the table include leaving the EU without a deal on April 12, the new Brexit deadline set by the EU, and a confirmatory referendum on May’s divorce bill.

All sides of the Parliament remain deeply divided over each of the many alternatives, a final list of which will be chosen by Commons Speaker John Bercow for a vote later on Monday night.

The Opposition Labour Party has said it will this time support the Common Market 2.0 option in addition to other options which the party backed last week, including a second referendum.

The 2.0 option means the UK joining the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area, akin to arrangements in place between the EU and countries like Norway.

It includes single market membership and retains freedom of movement, the biggest stumbling block for many MPs who voted for Brexit as a means to control the number of immigrants coming to the UK from across the EU.

As a result, it remains among the many so-called soft Brexit options that have failed to attract majority backing.

In an unprecedented ballot paper vote by MPs last Wednesday, many MPs had abstained but are now under increasing pressure to take a more decisive stance in order to break the parliamentary deadlock.

May has until April 12 to seek a longer extension to the Article 50 process if the UK is to avoid leaving without a deal.

She is believed to be still hopeful of bringing back for a fourth Commons vote her own controversial withdrawal agreement, rejected repeatedly over the Irish backstop clause the insurance policy factored in by the EU to avert a hard border between member-country Ireland and non-member Northern Ireland in future. However, Brexiteers fear it is designed to keep the UK tied to EU rules even after Brexit.

May warned MPs last Friday, when her deal was rejected for a third time, that she fears “we are reaching the limits of this process in this House”. As Parliament prepares for a fresh round of votes yet again, it remains uncertain how she plans to break the impasse.

Outside the main Parliament chamber, in Westminster Hall, MPs will also debate whether or not to indefinitely delay Brexit by revoking Article 50 after a petition on Parliament’s official site attracted nearly six million signatures.

Under regulations relating to official petitions to the UK government, any one that gathers more than 100,000 names should be considered for debate. The petitions committee said last week that it decided to combine three Brexit-related petitions into one single debate to ensure they were discussed as soon as possible, “so they would be less likely to be overtaken by events”.

The debates are indicative of the mood of Parliament, which remains as divided along pro and anti Brexit lines as it has been since the June 2016 referendum in favour of Britain leaving the 28-member economic bloc.

Meanwhile, European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, tweeted that Brexit was a “tragic reality” and urged MPs in Britain to find a compromise in Monday’s votes.

“Brexit is not a bad April Fool’s Joke, but a tragic reality for all our citizens and business…MPs must find a compromise and stop this chaos,” he said.

By PTI Updated: Apr 01, 2019 11:25:23 pm