UK’s May says she’ll still have her job after Brexit vote
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May brushed aside questions Monday about whether she will resign if her Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament next week, saying she’s confident she’ll still have a job after the crucial vote.
The beleaguered leader made her sunny prediction while facing another Brexit-related headache - opposition lawmakers seeking to force May’s government to publish legal advice it received about Britain’s departure from the European Union.
May is battling to persuade lawmakers to support the divorce agreement she has sealed with the EU when the House of Commons votes on Dec. 11. Opposition parties say their representatives will vote against the deal, and so have dozens of lawmakers from May’s Conservative Party.
Defeat would leave the U.K. facing a messy, economically damaging “no-deal” Brexit on March 29 and could topple the prime minister, her government, or both.
May predicted Monday that despite the blowback “I will still have a job in two weeks’ time.”
“My job is making sure that we do what the public asked us to: We leave the EU but we do it in a way that is good for them,” she told broadcaster ITV.
The Conservative prime minister has consistently refused to say what she plans to do if — as widely predicted — the British Parliament rejects the deal her government reached with the EU.
“I’m focusing on ... getting that vote and getting the vote over the line,” she said.
Politicians on both sides of Britain’s EU membership debate oppose the agreement that May struck with the bloc — pro-Brexit ones because it keeps Britain bound closely to the EU, and pro-EU politicians because it erects barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner.
May’s opponents argue that Britain can renegotiate the deal for better terms.
But the British government and the EU insist that the agreement, which took a year and a half to negotiate, is the only one on the table and rejecting it would mean leaving the bloc without a deal.
“There is no Plan B,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
Rutte cited the “red lines” drawn by both sides during negotiations, including the U.K.‘s refusal to accept the free movement of people between Britain and the EU, and the need to keep an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
“When you take all these red lines into account, it’s simply impossible to come up with something different than we have currently, the deal on the table,” he told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference in Poland.
May’s government is also facing a battle in Parliament over confidential advice from the country’s top law officer about the Brexit deal.
Under opposition pressure, the government promised last month to show Parliament the legal briefing that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox gave May’s Cabinet. Such advice is usually kept confidential.
On Monday the government published a 43-page document outlining Cox’s legal opinion. Opposition parties demanded the attorney general’s full, original advice, claiming the government would be in contempt of Parliament if it did not comply.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow agreed late Monday there was an “arguable case” that contempt had been committed. His assessment means Parliament will debate the issue Tuesday, likely delaying the start of the main Brexit debate.
Lawmakers can send the issue to a committee with the power to sanction ministers.
The most contentious legal issue arising from the Brexit agreement is how Britain could get out of a “backstop” provision that would keep the country in a customs union with the EU to guarantee an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The backstop is intended as a temporary measure, but pro-Brexit lawmakers say it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely and unable to strike new trade deals around the world.
The legal advice confirmed that Britain can’t unilaterally opt out of the backstop, which requires either an agreement with the EU or a decision by an arbitration panel.
In a statement to Parliament, Cox confirmed that “there is no unilateral right of either party to terminate this arrangement.”
Cox said he would have preferred that not to be the case, but that he supported the divorce deal as “a sensible compromise.”
“The divorce and separation of nations from long and intimate unions, just as of human beings, stirs high emotion and calls for wisdom and forbearance,” he said.
Frank Jordans in Katowice, Poland contributed to this story.
See the AP’s Brexit coverage at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit