Delay in Britain leaving EU is not about me, says May - GulfToday

Delay in Britain leaving EU is not about me, says May


Labour party’s leaders arrive for continuing Brexit talks at the cabinet office in London on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that the delay in Britain leaving the European Union was not an issue related to her leadership.

Told by Andrea Jenkyns, a lawmaker from her Conservative Party, that she had failed on Brexit and it was time to let someone new lead the party May responded: “Actually this is not an issue about me”.

“If it were an issue about me and how I vote, we would already have left the European Union,” said May, whose Brexit deal has been rejected three times by parliament.

Britain will hold elections to the European Parliament later this month regardless of what happens in ongoing talks with the opposition to pass a Brexit deal, Prime May’s spokesman said.

“The prime minister deeply regrets that we haven’t left the EU on time... and that a consequence of that is that we will have to take part in the European elections,” the spokesman said.

“She understands that many members of the public will feel great frustration at this,” he said.

After twice delaying the date of Brexit, the government had hoped it could get a draft divorce deal through parliament before the deadline so it would not have to go ahead with the elections to the European Parliament, to be held in Britain on May 23.

May’s ruling Conservatives are expected to fare badly in the elections according to the latest opinion polls, which put the Brexit Party currently in the lead.

May’s de facto deputy David Lidington said that the government would be “redoubling our efforts and talks with MPs (members of parliament) of all parties to try to make sure that the delay after that is as short as possible.

“Ideally we’d like to be in a situation where those MEPs (members of the European Parliament) never actually have to take their seat at the European Parliament, certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess,” he said.

The newly-elected European Parliament is due to meet for the first time on July 2. The British parliament’s summer recess is due to start on July 20.

“That will mean effort, hard work and compromise from different political parties, people from both the Leave side and the Remain side in the European debate,” Lidington said.

May’s Downing Street office called Tuesday’s talks with the Labour Party “constructive and detailed”, adding they would meet again on Wednesday.

Almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, there is little clarity about how, when or even if Brexit will happen.

David Lidington, May’s de facto deputy, said that despite the country taking part in the European elections on May 23, there was still time to avoid those elected taking their seats.

“Ideally we would like to be in a situation where those MEPs from the UK never actually take their seats in the European Parliament, certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess,” he said, referring to parliament’s summer break that usually begins in the second half of July.

May deeply regretted the UK having to take part in the elections, her spokesman said, describing the prime minister as determined to find a way to get a deal to leave the EU over the line. The Labour talks are an attempt by May to find a new path to what she calls “a stable majority” for a deal.

Earlier, May told her cabinet that last week’s local elections, when the Conservatives lost hundreds of council seats, underlined the need to get on with Brexit.

“The prime minister said that while an agreement with the opposition had not been reached, the public had sent a clear message in the local elections that they want both of the main parties to get on with delivering Brexit,” her spokesman said she told ministers.

However, many pro-EU lawmakers used the election results to argue the tide is turning against Brexit after the Liberal Democrats, who oppose Brexit and want a second referendum, gained many council seats.

Taking part in the European elections is a further blow to May, who secured a divorce deal with the EU in November but has been unable to implement the agreement and faces growing calls to bring forward her decision to stand down as prime minister.

She was to meet the chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee, an influential party group that can make or break Conservative Party leaders, on Tuesday.


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