Saturday 21 September 2019

May warns Tory rebels ousting her could delay Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May took a swipe at rebels. Picture: Sky News/PA
British Prime Minister Theresa May took a swipe at rebels. Picture: Sky News/PA
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned Tory rebels that a change of leadership could delay Brexit as she faces a battle to cling to power in the coming days.

Mrs May took a swipe at party rivals who have threatened to unseat her as leader as she warned the next seven days would be "critical" to achieving a successful Brexit.

The prime minister warned that a change of leadership would not make it any easier to get a deal through parliament or the EU, and warned that it could delay or frustrate Brexit.

A plan by senior UK cabinet ministers to try to alter the withdrawal agreement at the 11th hour has been dismissed by both Mrs May and the Irish Government.

The draft deal agreed by Mrs May's cabinet and the EU has sparked a fierce backlash from people on both sides of the debate, not least due to the provisions on the Irish backstop.

The fact that the backstop - an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard Border - can only be ended by mutual agreement has been criticised by Brexiteers, who say it risks tying the UK to the EU indefinitely.

Speaking to 'Sky News', Mrs May said no insurance provider could offer a policy which they could unilaterally withdraw from.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said that despite criticism from Unionists who believe the deal creates a border in the Irish Sea, the deal "preserves the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom" and is a "decisive step forward".

But the DUP's Nigel Dodds said his party's opposition to the deal had been vindicated by the criticism from others across the political spectrum.

It is likely to emerge early this week if rebel MPs have reached the threshold of 48 letters of no confidence needed to spark a leadership battle.

In a message to those plotting her downfall, including members of the European Research Group (ERG) of Eurosceptic MPs, Mrs May warned that a change of leadership at this point wasn't going to make the negotiations any easier, and it wasn't going to change the parliamentary arithmetic.

"What it will do is bring in a degree of uncertainty. That is uncertainty for people and their jobs," she said.

"What it will do is mean that it is a risk that we delay the negotiations and that is a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar moved to clarify his comments on avoiding a hard Border if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, which he admitted on Friday would be "very difficult". He said the Government did difficult things all the time. The Government has insisted there are no plans in place for Border infrastructure.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he believed a hard Border was inevitable in the event of a no-deal scenario which would signal "Armageddon" for Ireland.

He said Ireland needed an "urgent redoubling of Brexit preparations" and he claimed we were not prepared for a no-deal outcome.

"We all know that a no-deal Brexit means chaos, Armageddon, it means a hard Border, it means all sorts of things that are unthinkable," he said.

But he said the process must be taken step by step and noted the deal could still make it through the UK parliament despite the arithmetic looking unlikely at this point.

Irish Independent

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