May blames MPs for Brexit mess, draws flak

Vidya Ram London | Updated on March 21, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May (file photo)   -  Reuters

Heads to Brussels to seek extension from EU leaders

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempt to blame MPs for the political chaos the country has become enmeshed with, in the backdrop of the Brexit deadline fast approaching and no deal or extension in sight, backfired as she faced criticism from across the political spectrum.

In a statement from Downing Street on Wednesday night, May pointed the finger at MPs, accusing Parliament of doing “everything possible to avoid making a choice.” “Motion after motion and amendment after amendment have been tabled without Parliament ever deciding what it wants,” she said following another rocky day in which the European Council and the European Commission indicated concerns with her request to delay Brexit till the end of June — after European Parliamentary elections are due to take place on May 23 but before the new European parliamentary session opened.

Her comments provoked sharp criticism, including from within her own party and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who defended MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday. “None of you is a traitor. All of you are doing your best.. I believe passionately in the institution of Parliament, in the rights of members of this House and their commitment to their duty...the sole duty of every member of Parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right.”

Sam Gyimah, who resigned as universities minister in November, described her “blame game” as a “low blow.” “Democracy loses when a Prime Minister who has set herself against the House of Commons then blames MPs for doing their job.”

Wes Streeting, a Labour MP, condemned the speech as “incendiary and irresponsible,” pointing to the “credible” death threats that members of the House had been subject to as a result of their Brexit stance. “If any harm comes to any of us, she will have to accept her share of responsibility.”

May headed to Brussels to seek the extension from EU leaders, following the letter sent to European Council President Donald Tusk earlier this week. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also held talks in Brussels to discuss alternative arrangements for Brexit.

New petition

Meanwhile, a petition started just on Wednesday, following her comments, calling for Article 50 to be revoked and for the UK to remain in the EU rapidly gained thousands of signatories, with the Website crashing at one point because of the activity. By early afternoon on Thursday signatories had crossed 900,000. The petitions committee said that nearly 2,000 signatures were being added each minute.

Public pressure for the government to either revoke Article 50 or hold a referendum has continued to grow amid concern that the conditions under which the EU are set to offer the UK an extension to Article 50 to avoid crashing out of the EU are impossible to fulfil. They are expected to say that they will allow an extension but only till May 22, the day before the European parliamentary elections, and only if the UK backs the withdrawal deal. At the moment, despite efforts to woo Conservative backbenchers and the Democratic Unionist party, May does not appear to have the numbers to get her deal through in a vote next week. Several have warned that her comments blaming MPs will not help her chances of success.

This would mean that with no extension available, the UK could crash out of the EU on March 29, against the explicit wishes of the House of Commons which last week voted to rule out a no-deal exit.

Call for second vote

On Saturday, a march is set to take place in central London calling for a second vote on whether Britain should leave the EU, with thousands from up and down the country expected to attend. Some MPs have indicated they would be willing to back the withdrawal deal on condition it was put to a public vote, with remaining in the EU as the other option. “

However, there are increasing concerns that — faced with pressure from the right of her party — May will —faced with the choice of seeking a longer extension that would require participation in EU elections, revoking Article 50 or crashing out of the EU, the Prime Minister would choose the last option.

Published on March 21, 2019

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