World / Politics

British leader Theresa May to travel to Brussels again for talks on future ties with EU

AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday she will return to Brussels this week to hammer out Britain’s future relationship with the EU — and overthrowing her will not help negotiations.

After a tumultuous week in which the draft divorce deal agreed between London and the European Union was slammed in Parliament, May said the proposed withdrawal accord will only be signed off if the future relationship deal is satisfactory.

May said the week ahead will be “critical” in the Brexit talks.

And while hard-core Brexiteers in her center-right Conservative Party want her replaced, she said that as things stand, they do not have the numbers to trigger a no-confidence motion.

“I will be going back to Brussels,” May told Sky News television, saying she will meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

“The focus this week will be on the future relationship.

“We won’t agree the leaving part … until we’ve got what we want in the future relationship, because these two go together.”

That may appease some of the Brexiteers in her Cabinet, who Saturday hinted that further negotiation is needed to keep them on-side.

May could face a no-confidence vote if at least 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — 48 members of Parliament — submit letters saying she has lost their support.

More than 20 have publicly said they have done so.

Asked if the 48 figure has been reached, May said: “As far as I know, no it has not.

“We’re not going to be distracted.

“A change of leadership at this point isn’t going to make the negotiations any easier and it’s not going to change the parliamentary arithmetic.”

She said replacing her will bring in uncertainty, and will risk delaying the talks and postponing Britain’s EU departure date, set for March 29.

On Thursday, four ministers resigned over the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, lawmakers hammered the document, saying it has no chance of getting through Parliament, and Brexiteers began submitting their no-confidence letters.

May runs a minority Conservative government and a rump of Brexiteers in her own party, the Northern Irish allies she relies upon for support, plus the opposition, have vowed to vote down the draft deal.

Brexiteers fear the deal will keep Britain shackled to Brussels for years to come. EU supporters say it will leave the U.K. on worse terms than it has inside the bloc and are calling for a second Brexit referendum to break the logjam.

Asked what she will do if the vote is lost, May said: “There’s a process that Parliament will go through. Were it the case that the deal was lost then the government would come back with their proposals for what the next step was.”

She said the left-wing Labour main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is “playing party politics” with Brexit.

“There are those in the House of Commons who just want to stop Brexit. I believe it is essential for people’s trust in politics and Parliament that we deliver on Brexit,” she added.

A 52 percent majority voted for Britain to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.