British Government Could Ignore Indicative Brexit Votes
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Britain’s international trade secretary indicated the government could ignore MPs’ views from indicative Brexit votes this week if parliament’s stated choice goes against the Conservative manifesto, insisting the real choice is still between Theresa May’s deal and no deal.
Liam Fox dismissed calls for May to be ousted, or for the prime minister to offer to resign in return for her Brexit plan being passed, as suggested to her by Tory Brexiters on Sunday.
Asked about plans to replace May, Fox told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think there’s a lot of supposition in this. What I think is true is that the real debate is not really about the withdrawal agreement at all. The real debate is about our future relationship with the European Union once we’ve left.”
Later on Monday, after May has updated the Commons on last week’s Brussels summit, MPs will have a chance to vote for an amendment seeking to reserve Wednesday’s Commons business for a series of non-binding indicative votes on various Brexit options.
But Fox said the fact the options would include ideas such as a deal involving single market membership, a second referendum or rescinding Brexit, showed there was a disconnect between a “leave electorate and, seemingly, a remain-leaning parliament”.
He said: “I was elected, as 80% of members were, to respect the referendum and leave the European Union. I was also elected on a manifesto that specifically said no single market and no customs union. That, for Conservative MPs who are honoring the manifesto, limits their room for manoeuvre, the Guardian reported.
“And that is part of the reality that restricts us here. The number one constraint is that we contracted out parliament’s sovereignty on the issue of the European Union to the people.”
MPs should instead, Fox said, focus on passing May’s deal at the third time of asking or else risk no deal or a further Brexit delay necessitating the UK taking part in European elections. The latter would, he predicted, “unleash a torrent of pent-up frustration from voters”.
The chances of May’s deal being passed appeared to grow even more distant after a summit on Sunday at her Chequers country retreat, with Boris Johnson and other leading hard-Brexiters leaving without agreement.
Tory rebels present said the prime minister repeated “all the same lines” about her deal and that nothing new emerged during the three-hour meeting, at which Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith and Dominic Raab were also present.
The talks took place amid reports of an imminent coup to remove the prime minister – claims that were forcefully denied by Michael Gove, David Lidington and Philip Hammond.
However, calls for May to depart soon have grown, with the Sun on Monday using its front page for an editorial demanding the prime minister step down.
Nigel Evans, a leading Conservative Brexiter, and joint executive secretary of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said on Monday that May should set out a plans to quit to get her deal through.
“Clearly a number of people do not want the prime minister anywhere near the next phase of negotiations, which is the future trading relationship between ourselves and the EU,” he said.
If she left, there could be “an orderly replacement of the prime minister” with a full leadership contest, he added.
Oliver Letwin, the Conservative former minister who is among those who have led the amendment on the indicative votes, now signed by more than 120 MPs, told today it could take several rounds of voting to find a consensus.
“I think MPs are very grown up and sensible about this, and given the opportunity, eventually – not necessarily in the first round – they will probably come up with an alternative,” he said.
Others in attendance at Chequers on Sunday included David Davis, a former Brexit secretary, Steve Baker, a leading hard Brexiter, and May ally Damian Green.
The prime minister, the only woman present, also invited her effective deputy, Lidington, and the environment secretary, Gove, plus Julian Smith, the chief whip, and Brandon Lewis, the Conservative party chairman.
Cabinet colleagues at the meeting, including Gove, had hoped it would be possible to persuade Johnson and Raab – both rival Tory leadership contenders who are holding out against the deal – to end their standoff by dropping their opposition together.
However, any compromise from Johnson appeared unlikely as he used his latest Telegraph column to attack the government, saying it had “bottled” Brexit and the UK should leave the EU immediately.