LONDON: Britain’s main opposition Labour Party said Monday it will propose legislation to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal if parliament rejects the final agreement struck with Brussels.
The party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer was to say in a speech that Labour hopes to get enough cross-party backing to reject the “take it or leave it” approach on offer, in which a parliamentary vote against the final agreement is interpreted as a decision to back a “no deal” Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May is running a minority Conservative government that relies on a Northern Ireland party for a slender majority.
“Labour will ensure that an amendment is tabled to the EU Withdrawal Bill,” Starmer was to say, according to released extracts of his speech.
“Should the prime minister’s deal be defeated, it must be for parliament to say what happens next, not the executive.
“Labour’s preference in that scenario is clear: the government should go back to the negotiating table and work towards securing a deal that works for Britain.
“This would provide a safety valve in the Brexit process.”
This week marks a year to go until Britain leaves the European Union.
On Friday, EU leaders without Britain approved guidelines for the next phase of Brexit talks on the future relationship including trade, and approved a deal for a 21-month transition period.
The transition deal agreed last week by negotiators effectively maintains Britain’s ties with the EU until December 2020, although it will have no voting rights, to allow time for a deal on future relations.
Meanwhile Tony Blair, Britain’s Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007, warned that May would try to fudge the details of the final Brexit plan for as long as possible, as he stepped up his call for a second referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU. The UK voted in 2016 to leave the bloc.
Blair was also set to give a speech on Monday where he was to say that the Conservatives “are in mortal danger of putting a proposition to parliament which will not pass”, calling the approach “deeply, dangerously irresponsible”.
The final deal will either mean divergence from Europe, damaging the economy, or alignment with Europe, infuriating Brexit supporters, he was to claim.
Blair also plans to say that the “sensible strategic course” if the Conservatives wanted to survive in office was to “share the responsibility”.
“Resolve the dilemma before March 2019. Put the proposition to parliament,” he says, according to released excerpts of his speech.
“If it succeeds, then no one can say we voted in parliament in ignorance. Even better, let the MPs have a free vote.
“Then let the people make the final judgement.”