EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Britain’s main opposition Labour Party set out its bid to block a “no deal” Brexit on Wednesday, saying it wanted to put the idea to a vote in parliament during a debate on the exit agreement Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated.
On Dec. 11 May has to pull off what looks like an unlikely victory in parliament to approve the deal she agreed in Brussels on Sunday. Britain’s parliament is deeply divided on the issue and time is running short to ratify the deal and complete preparations ahead of Britain’s planned departure from the European Union on March 29.
Many in her own Conservative Party and among the opposition have said they will vote against her Brexit deal. She argues that if it is rejected, Britain will leave the bloc without any agreement.
Labour reject that outcome and are seeking to put political pressure on her during the debate by proposing a so-called amendment to the approval motion - a maneuver which could be used to show parliament opposes a no-deal exit.
“Labour will oppose Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal that puts jobs, rights and people’s livelihoods at risk,” leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.
“There is a sensible deal that could win the support of parliament, based on a comprehensive customs union, with a British say in future trade deals, and a strong single market deal that protects rights at work and environmental safeguards and helps us to rebuild our economy and expand our public services,” Corbyn said.
May will likely have to defeat the Labour amendment at a vote. If she loses, the result does not have the power to force her hand, but it could prove politically impossible to ignore and thus prevent an exit deal being ratified.
Labour would work across parliamentary party divides to keep all options open to protect Britain from a no-deal scenario, and said a general election was “the best outcome for the country.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Labour’s finance chief John McDonnell told the BBC that if a general election were not possible, Labour could push for a second EU referendum — something May has consistently ruled out.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by William James