Concern political 'standoff' could lead to no-deal Brexit

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 22 January 2019, 7:44AM
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo / Getty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May has delivered her Brexit plan B to parliament this morning, highlighting three key changes.

May outlined the new commitments which include being more open and inclusive in future and a commitment to workers rights.

"First, we will be more flexible, open and inclusive in the future, in how we engaged parliament in negotiating our future partnership with the European Union."

"Second, we will invent the strongest possible protections on workers rights and the environment."

"Third, we will work to identify how we can ensure that our commitment to no hard border in Ireland and Northern Ireland can be delivered in a way that commands the support of this House and the Europen Union."

Former director of strategy and speechwriter for Theresa May, Chris Wilkins told Mike Hosking the thing that's come from two years of Brexit negotiations is a "grudging respect" for the Prime Minister.

"She's had a lot that's been thrown at her and she's not buckled under that."

"But I think what people would also say, is that now is the time to show a bit more imagination and maybe a sense that she's reaching out to other parties and bringing them into the process."

"Because that's probably the downside to that, stoic is good but sometimes you need to be a bit more open about things."

He said May's Brexit plan B was very similar to her original deal but it is starting to show a willingness to tweak the first deal.

"Behind the scenes, you're seeing a lot of little bits of movement which are giving, certainly Downing Street, some hope that they might be able to get the Prime Minister's preferred deal through."

Wilkins said there is a real standoff between what voters want and what MPs will sanction.

"Really whether people voted leave or remain two years ago, a lot of people now are saying we just want to get on with it and frankly we don't care if we leave with no-deal."

"But of course, MPs are there to not just do what the people say, they are there to exercise their judgement and in the judgement of many people in the House, they are saying a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous."

"There is this standoff, the public is saying just get on with it and MPs are saying well in our judgement that's a bad thing and we need to avoid it and it's almost an unprecedented democratic and constitutional issue."

Former advisor to Tony Blair, John McTernan, told Kate Hawkesby it's the same Brexit plan in a slightly different form.

"It doesn't feel as though her plan is anything more than bringing back what she thought about before and, in fact, they have a chance to vote again in a week's time and then when they reject that, she's going to keep bringing it back in different forms until they have run down the clock and have no choice."

He said the government controls parliamentary time, so it will get what it wants.

"If the government wanted to listen to backbenchers saying, 'let's have more time to negotiate, let's talk about a customs union, let's talk about the options businesses would prefer, let's talk about a second referendum' she [May] could enable that to happen immediately."

"[However], in the absence of any support form the government, all the parliament can do is defeat her which she can keep ignoring or in the way she's doing, come back in a week pretty well the same thing but expressed in slightly different language."

"So it feels like a very, very slow stalemate with the intention of frightening her backbenchers and MPs...into stopping the country sliding, by default, into no deal and the chaos even the Prime Minister accepts would happen."

Blair said May's Brexit deal was rejected for so many different reasons which makes it hard to move forward.

"The question is can the House decide on anything? It may have said it agrees to reject her [May's] vote but [eople rejected her proposal for a myriad of reasons."

"The question is, do any of those different positions have a majority or are we going to end up in a deadlock where it turns out the House of Commons is against everything."

"Unfortunately for Britain, the status quo on Europe is if no proposal is agreed to, we leave with no deal."

Yesterday New Zealand signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement with the UK.

It has come in what Jacinda Ardern is calling a constructive meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London.

The Prime Minister says it means that regardless of scenarios, New Zealand businesses will be no worse off from the day any Brexit arrangements come into force.

She says it means our businesses can feel confident that their products will continue to be treated in the same way in the UK, as they are now.

Ardern says it is similar to a deal Australia has signed with the UK.

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