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May likely to delay vote on Brexit deal

Theresa May

Theresa May

London : UK Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to postpone Tuesday’s key parliamentary vote on her Brexit plan, the media reported on Monday, amid predictions that she would suffer a “significant” defeat that could threaten to end her premiership and topple the government.

British media reports cited government sources as saying that May would inform MPs in the House of Commons about the delay in a statement later in the day. However, Downing Street insisted that the vote would go ahead.

The pound fell sharply following the reports, shedding 0.5 per cent versus the US dollar to stand at $1.26. Against the euro, the pound was 0.8 per cent down at 1.10 euros, the BBC reported.

May’s Commons address will be followed by a statement from the leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom. Later, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will also make a statement on Article 50 — the legal mechanism taking the UK out of the EU on March 29.

According to the Guardian, a vote could take place next week or even be delayed till early January. The ultimate deadline for the vote is January 21.

The deal has been agreed with the EU, but it needs to be backed by the UK Parliament if it is to become law ahead of the UK’s departure.

The news followed the European Court of Justice’s ruling earlier in the day that the UK could cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 bloc members.

The court in a statement said: “When a member state has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU, as the UK has done, that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.”

“That possibility exists for as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that member state has not entered into force or, if no such agreement has been concluded, for as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, and any possible extension, has not expired,” stated the ruling tweeted by the court.

The judges ruled that this could be done without altering the terms of Britain’s membership. The court rejected arguments from both the UK government and the European Commission that Article 50, the two-year-long process that triggers a member state’s departure from the EU, could not be revoked unilaterally.

The case was brought to the European Court of Justice by a cross-party group of Scottish lawmakers.

The court ruling matched legal advice given to the court last week by its Advocate General Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona, who said as a sovereign country Britain could reverse its decision even at this stage.

This legal decision was significant because it meant Britain can prevent a no-deal Brexit from happening if it wanted, even if May’s deal was voted down by MPs.

May, whose Conservative Party executive wields a minority in the Commons, enacted Article 50 on March 29, 2017, meaning the UK is due to withdraw from the EU on March 29, 2019, with or without a deal.

She is due to attend a meeting of European leaders on Saturday, at which the parliamentary impasse over Brexit is likely to be top of the agenda.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday ruled out the possibility of further negotiations with London, saying that the draft deal has already been unanimously adopted by member states.

—IANS

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