Opposition accuses May of ‘blackmail’ over Brexit deal pressure

UK Prime Minister Theresa May

LONDON –  Opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Monday accused Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May of attempting to “blackmail” lawmakers into backing her deal for Britain to leave the EU.
In an urgent question to parliament, Corbyn asked for a guarantee that May “won’t just run away” from holding a vote on the Brexit deal next week.
Corbyn noted that May postponed the vote four weeks ago, admitting that she would have faced a heavy defeat if it had gone ahead.
“The government is trying to run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail this house and the country into supporting a botched deal,” he told parliament’s main elected house, the Commons.
Eurosceptic and pro-EU critics from all parties have accused the government of running a “project fear,” by presenting a catastrophic no-deal Brexit as the only alternative, to persuade lawmakers to accept May’s deal.
Standing in for May on Monday, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay confirmed that the parliamentary debate would resume as planned on Wednesday, but he gave no assurance about the date of the vote.
Veteran pro-EU Conservative Ken Clarke urged May’s government to extend negotiations with the EU beyond the “entirely arbitrary date” of March 29, when Britain is due to leave the bloc after 40 years.
“Isn’t it obvious that the national interest requires that we now delay matters?” Clarke asked Barclay.
Barclay rejected the idea of extending or revoking Article 50 of the EU treaty, which allows a member state to leave the bloc after up to two years of negotiations.
Earlier Monday, outspoken former Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, also criticised efforts by May to persuade pro-Brexit and pro-EU Conservative rebels to vote for her Brexit deal next week.
Johnson mocked “apocalyptic’’ forecasts of what could happen if Britain leaves the EU without a withdrawal deal, claiming a no-deal Brexit best reflects the result of the 2016 referendum.
His intervention came after more than 200 of the 650 members of the Commons, including both Labour and Conservative lawmakers, wrote an open letter urging May to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson and other Conservative eurosceptics have accused the government of backing a campaign to scare people into supporting her deal by exaggerating the risks of leaving without a deal.
“Establishment figures have taken to the airwaves to warn of the perils of rejecting Theresa May’s lamentable withdrawal agreement; and we now have a cumulative forecast that is downright apocalyptic,” Johnson wrote in his column for the pro-Conservative Daily Telegraph.
In spite the campaign by the government and backers of May’s deal, opinion polls suggest “the so-called no-deal option … is gaining in popularity,” he said.
Voters appeared to be unconvinced by the grim warnings, Johnson wrote.
“The most obvious answer, perhaps, is that this [no-deal] option is closest to what people actually voted for,” Johnson said. (dpa/NAN)

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