NEW YORK (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May signalled on Tuesday that she would prefer a ‘no-deal’ Brexit to the offer currently put forward by the European Union, stressing that Britain needs to see counter-proposals from the EU to move Brexit negotiations forward.
May last week issued an angry edict to Brussels when a summit of EU leaders which had been billed as a chance to generate momentum towards a deal in October or November ended in a blunt dismissal of British proposals.
“I’ve always said no deal is better than a bad deal,” May told reporters. “I think a bad deal would be a deal that broke up the United Kingdom,” May said when asked whether a no-deal Brexit was better than one similar to the existing Canada-EU trade deal.
Her spokesman said later that May was specifically referring to the type of deal the EU is currently offering on future trade, which Britain believes will split England, Wales and Scotland from Northern Ireland by insisting Northern Ireland adhere to different customs rules.
Her position also effectively rules out alternative Brexit proposals put forward by rebel eurosceptic members of her own party, which are based on a wide-ranging free trade agreement similar to that agreed between the EU and Canada.
Speaking to reporters on her way to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, May said she welcomed comments from European Council President Donald Tusk that the bloc still wanted to strike a deal, but added that the onus was still on the EU to break the deadlock on Chequers.
“If they have concerns, they need to detail those concerns to us and if they have counter-proposals, let’s hear the counter proposals and then we can discuss those,” she said.
May said the opposition Labour Party’s Brexit plans were not in the national interest after Labour’s Brexit policy chief said the party was likely to vote against any deal she reaches with the European Union.
Even if May is able to secure a deal on Brexit with Brussels, it is far from certain she will be able to get the terms approved by parliament. In addition to Labour lawmakers, many in her own party also disagree with her exit plans.
If she loses a vote, May has said Britain will leave the EU without a deal. But, in the likely chaos around a parliamentary defeat she could also face a leadership challenge, calls for a new national election, and even a second Brexit referendum.
“I still do believe that we can get a good deal ... at that point all members of parliament will have a clear choice,” she said. “They’ll have to recognise, looking at their vote, that what we’re doing is delivering on the vote of the referendum, delivering on the vote of the British people.”
Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison, Richard Balmforth