International

May no closer to deal to leave EU

May no closer to deal to leave EU
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leave 10 Downing Street, in London October 31, 2018
LONDON/BELFAST, NOV 6 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 11/6/2018 11:41:37 AM IST

Britain would vote to stay in the European Union if there was another referendum, a poll showed, as uncertainty over whether Prime Minister Theresa May would be able to clinch a deal on the terms of departure roiled sterling on Tuesday, reports Reuters.

With just five months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, voters would now back remaining by 54 percent to 46 percent, the largest independent survey carried out since the Brexit vote found. 

May has repeatedly ruled out a referendum rerun, saying her job is to deliver the 2016 vote to leave the bloc, even as her plan has drawn critics from both sides of the Brexit divide. She must unite her government, party and domestic allies around a plan for Brexit that is also acceptable to the EU, and is so far yet to finalize a deal, with her spokesman saying more time was needed to sort the issue of the Irish border.

Sterling fell after a senior member of the Northern Irish party which props up May’s government said the United Kingdom looked likely to leave the EU without a deal. “Looks like we’re heading for no deal,” Jeffrey Donaldson, one of 10 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lawmakers whose support May needs to get any deal passed in the British parliament, said on Twitter. 

But the pound rallied strongly after a BBC reporter asked Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab after a cabinet meeting if it was thumbs up or thumbs down and he replied: “Thumbs up.”

The pound was up 0.3 percent against the dollar and Raab’s comment sent the euro to a five-month low against the pound.

A major outstanding issue in the negotiations is to resolve the stand-off over an emergency fix for the Irish border.  Raab had reportedly demanded the right to pull Britain out of the so-called “backstop” after three months, but Ireland said it would not consider proposals which would allow Britain to unilaterally walk away from it.

Britain and the EU both wish to keep the border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom open after Brexit, as it is seen as crucial to the 1998 Good Friday peace accord that ended decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland.  

While final arrangements on the border are due to be agreed as part of later trade talks, a backstop arrangement in case such talks fail is proving tricky. Britain’s desire to leave the customs union is not easily reconciled with preserving the integrity of the EU’s single market. London also wants backstop to be provisional rather than permanent, while the EU resists any suggestion it could expire.

May told her cabinet of senior ministers more work was needed on the Irish backstop, and that while the withdrawal agreement was 95 percent complete, Northern Ireland was by far the main issue outstanding. As May bids to rally support for her Brexit deal, where Britain would seek free trade in goods with the EU while accepting some of its regulations, the Survation poll for Channel 4 suggested it was unpopular.

Although 62 percent of respondents in the poll of 20,000 were happy to follow EU regulations on manufactured goods, it found that 33 percent of people would reject a deal reached by May, compared to just 26 percent who would accept it.

Should May be unable to agree a deal by March 29, 36 percent said Britain should leave without a deal, 35 percent said it should stay in the EU and 19 percent said the departure should be delayed until an agreement is reached.

Many business chiefs and investors fear a no-deal scenario could weaken the West, panic financial markets and block the arteries of trade.

British trade minister Liam Fox said it was “impossible” to say whether a Brexit deal could be reached with the EU this month or next, but that Britain wanted an agreement and a deal is better than no deal.

German automotive supplier Schaeffler said it will shut two factories in Britain as part of changes prompted partly by Brexit.


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