Another week, more UK jockeying over who controls Brexit
LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May faces another bruising week in Parliament as lawmakers plan to challenge her minority Conservative government for control of Brexit policy.
Amendments designed to change the course of Britain’s planned March 29 departure from the European Union escalated the political jockeying. Several would delay the exit or make a Brexit without a divorce deal with the EU impossible.
The final lineup to be considered in the House of Commons is not expected to be announced until Tuesday, hours before the next Brexit debate and voting begins.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said her party would support postponing Brexit day.
Sturgeon said the possibility of a second U.K. referendum on leaving the EU was not gaining traction in Parliament because of opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ambiguous position.
Voters supported Britain’s withdrawal from the EU during a June 2016 referendum. Brexit opponents and others who have qualms about the process now underway have suggested holding another vote.
“It’s incumbent on Labour to make its position on this clear,” she said. “If it does, so then I do think there would possibly be a majority in the House of Commons.”
May’s Brexit divorce plan was soundly rejected by lawmakers two weeks ago. She is scrambling to gain more backing for the plan agreed with the EU, but some legislators are determined to force the government to slow the process and take “no-deal” off the table.
The drama in Parliament has galvanized the partisan British press.
The Sunday Times used its lead editorial to say it opposed a “no-deal” departure that would do unneeded harm to Britain, but also opposed the amendments that would block the “no-deal” route.
It argued the threat of Brexit taking place without agreement on issues that affect people and businesses throughout Europe was Britain’s only bargaining chip in getting the EU to soften the withdrawal terms and make May’s deal acceptable to lawmakers.
That is clearly an uphill battle. EU leaders remain adamant — in public at least — they will not alter the withdrawal treaty reached with Britain’s government late last year.
One of the key points in dispute is how to prevent a hard post-Brexit border that would bring back customs and identity checks between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.
British newspapers have compared the confrontation with the EU to a game of chicken, with pro-Brexit papers predicting the EU will cave in to avoid a crash.
“Brexit Deal: EU Will Blink First,” the Sunday Express proclaimed in its front-page headline, atop what it billed as an exclusive story.
The Express story predicted the EU would back down on the Irish border impasse as long as rebels in Parliament “do not succeed in taking the threat of no deal off the table.”