May’s foes gather as Britain’s Brexit stalemate drags on
LONDON — Talks to end Britain’s Brexit stalemate appeared deadlocked Friday, with neither Prime Minister Theresa May nor the main opposition leader shifting from their entrenched positions.
May has been meeting with politicians from several parties in a bid to find a way forward after her European Union divorce deal was rejected by Parliament this week.
But she is unwilling to move her “red lines,” which include taking Britain out of the bloc’s customs union. And Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn refuses to meet with May unless she rules out the possibility of Britain leaving the EU with no deal.
May, who narrowly defeated a no-confidence vote triggered by Corbyn this week, said Thursday it was “not within the government’s power to rule out no-deal” because by law Britain will leave the EU on March 29 “unless Parliament either agrees a deal with the EU or the U.K. … chooses to stay in the EU permanently.”
Britain’s political chaos has spurred EU nations to step up preparations for a disorderly British exit. France and other countries are spending millions, hiring thousands of workers and issuing emergency decrees to cope with the possibility that Britain will crash out of the bloc, sparking major disruptions to travel and trade.
On Friday, a group of high-profile Germans made an emotional appeal to Britain to stay in the bloc. A letter published in the Times of London said that “without your great nation, this Continent would not be what it is today: a community defined by freedom and prosperity.” It went on to list things Germans would miss about Britain, among them “tea with milk” and “going to the pub after work.”
The signatories include Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Airbus chief Tom Enders and former German national soccer player Jens Lehmann.
Amid the political impasse, May’s domestic opponents are gathering. Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was making a speech Friday in an attempt to burnish his position as a leading Brexit champion, and potential replacement for May.
May will publish her revived Brexit blueprint on Monday, before lawmakers debate it — and doubtless try to alter it — on Jan. 29.
Factions vying for control of the Brexit process include, euroskeptic Conservatives backing “hard Brexit,” ″soft Brexit” supporters of a close economic relationship with the EU and those urging Britain to hold a second EU membership referendum.