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Labour narrowly fail in bid to redirect Brexit

By Julian Shea in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-06-13 03:05
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks outside EU headquarters in Brussels, March 21, 2019. [Photo/IC]

No deal exit from EU now a more likely proposition following vote

Britain's Labour Party narrowly missed out on seizing control of the Brexit parliamentary process on Wednesday after suffering a defeat in the House of Commons.

The vote, which they lost by 309 votes to 298, had been looking to take charge of the parliamentary agenda for June 25, and to get binding legislation passed that would eliminate the option of a no-deal Brexit, and also prevent future leaders from suspending Parliament to force through any such arrangement.

This is a tactic some pro-Brexit candidates in the race to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader, and prime minister, have said they would resort to, if necessary. Had the motion been passed, it would also have had a major impact on the Conservative leadership race, wiping out the favored policy of some candidates, but as things stand, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is now a lot more realistic.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is favorite to win the leadership race, let rivals launch their campaigns before starting his own bid on Wednesday, saying: "After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on Oct 31.

"With every week and month that goes by in which we fail to deliver on our promise," he continued, "I am afraid we will further alienate not just our natural supporters but anyone who believes that politicians should deliver on their promises."

Had the Labour-proposed motion been successful, the next leader could not take the country out of the EU without a renegotiated deal, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has repeated that this is not an option, saying that the 585-page exit treaty that had already been agreed was "not a treaty between Theresa May and Juncker, it is a treaty between the UK and the EU".

"It has to be respected by whoever is the next British prime minister," he continued. "There will be no renegotiations as far as the content of the withdrawal agreement is concerned."

The parliamentary Conservative Party will whittle 10 candidates down to a final two, with the ultimate leadership decision being made by party members nationwide.

Johnson is hugely popular with grassroots supporters, but supporting no-deal is a calculated risk. Business Secretary Greg Clark has warned it would be "political suicide" for the party, and given his backing to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, saying he "has a clear understanding of how important it is to have a deal and to pursue the trading relationship with the EU that I believe is vital".

Candidates Esther McVey and Dominic Raab have both spoken of their willingness to enact a no-deal-Brexit, but Rory Stewart, an outsider whose somewhat eccentric campaigning style has proved unexpectedly popular, told the BBC: "No-deal is a terrible thing ... the best way of stopping no deal is to vote for a candidate who is against no deal."

Before the vote, Labour Brexit secretary Keir Starmer had warned: "MPs cannot be bystanders while the next Tory prime minister tries to crash the UK out of the European Union without a deal and without the consent of the British people. That's why we are taking this latest measure to end the uncertainty and protect communities across the country."

However, the vote has polarized already divided opinion, with Conservative MP and former Attorney General Dominic Greive warning that he would resign the party whip rather than see a no-deal Brexit forced through by the next PM.

Political commentators are warning of further storm clouds ahead in Westminster.

Sky News political correspondent Lewis Goodall tweeted: "Get ready for an election in the autumn."

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