May tours Europe in desperate bid to save Brexit deal

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May (seen here with German Chancellor Angela Merkel) launched a tour of European capitals in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal.

Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May (seen here with German Chancellor Angela Merkel) launched a tour of European capitals in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal.

AFP

BERLIN - Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on a tour of European capitals on Tuesday in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal, a day after delaying a parliamentary vote on the text to avoid a crushing defeat.

May had breakfast with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague before heading to Berlin for lunch with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and was then to travel on to Brussels.

She is seeking "reassurances" over provisions in the EU withdrawal agreement concerning Northern Ireland, which she hopes could persuade her rebellious Conservative party to support it.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said ahead of meeting May that he was "surprised" at being asked for more talks.

"I'm surprised because we had reached an agreement on November 25" at the last EU summit, he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"The deal we have achieved is the best deal possible, it's the only deal possible.

"There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation but of course there is room, if used intelligently, to give further clarification and further interpretations."

MPs in the House of Commons were due to vote on the deal on Tuesday night, but May deferred it on Monday, admitting she expected to lose by a "significant margin".

Her spokesman said Tuesday the vote would be rescheduled before January 21 -- just months before Britain leaves the EU on March 29.

No deal plans

Even if no deal is secured, Britain is still on course to leave the EU on March 29 -- a scenario the government has warned will be hugely damaging to the economy.

The decision to defer the vote sent the pound plunging.

Tusk said Thursday's EU meeting would cover no-deal plans, while May's cabinet was also due to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

France's minister for European affairs, Nathalie Loiseau, said the possibility of no deal was "not unlikely", adding: "I'm very worried."

May's decision also drew outrage from MPs, who demanded the right to vote on the Brexit deal.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing calls to table a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, but is holding off for now as the party believes May is likely to win.

"The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray," he warned on Monday.

Eurosceptic MPs in May's Conservative party also repeated calls for her to be replaced, with one warning it was time to "govern or quit".

Source
AFP