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British Prime Minister Theresa May will consider
next steps as MPs fail to break 'Brexit' deadlock

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May has to consider what next steps she and her government will take on Brexit after lawmakers on Monday night rejected for a second time an alternative list of options aimed at breaking the current Brexit deadlock.

With Britain scheduled to leave the European Union on April 12, May is expected to convene a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Her mission will be to seek a way of breaking the impasse between warring politicians.

May is expected, trying for a fourth time, to get her under-fire Brexit deal through parliament later this week.

Her deal, also known as the Withdrawal Agreement, has been rejected in the House of Commons for three times since January.

Members of Parliament spent hours Monday debating a list of four Brexit options, ending in a series of votes which resulted in all of them being rejected.

It was the second time within days that the British parliament had taken the unusual step of taking control of business in the Commons, a task usually managed by the ruling government.

The first round of unbinding "indicative vote" was conducted on March 27, in which none of MPs’ eight proposed options secured a majority, but among them, the proposed options about a customs union with the European Union and a referendum on any deal received most support from the lawmakers.

Many of those options have returned for round two, but some have been replaced with new alternatives.

  British Prime Minister Theresa May will consider next steps as MPs fail to break 'Brexit' deadlock | Coastweek

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the debate in the House of Commons in London. British lawmakers on Friday voted to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which has already been rejected twice in Parliament since January. XINHUA PHOTO - HOC UK PARLIAMENT - MARK DUFFY
The prime minister, who is struggling to hold her party together, warned Sunday night that she faced resignation and a split in the Conservative Party if she agrees to pursue a "soft" Brexit this week.

Speaker John Bercow announced the results of the four options, which one by one fell, giving May’s own deal a better chance.

One option put forward by veteran Conservative Ken Clarke, the longest serving politician in the Commons, lost by just three votes, with 276 MPs against it and 273 backing.

It would have seen Britain negotiating a permanent UK-wide customs union with the EU as part of any Brexit deal with Brussels. But it would prevent Britain striking independent trade deals with other countries, and has previously been ruled out by May.

Conservative MP Nick Boles’ Common Market option lost by 282 to 261.

It would have seen Britain joining the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area.

It would have meant Britain remaining part of the EU single market, but would allow free movement of people across Europe.

Boles announced he was resigning from the Conservative Party after the Norway-style Brexit option was rejected.

Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson put forward a plan that would have forced a public vote on any Brexit deal passed by the British Parliament, before it could be implemented.

It lost by 292 votes to 280.

Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry’s option aimed at preventing Britain from leaving the EU without a deal, lost by 292 votes to 191, a margin of 101.

None of the Monday votes on the proposals are legally binding, meaning it will be up to the British government if they act on the results.

Currently, Downing Street does not rule out the plan to seek a fourth parliamentary vote on May’s Brexit deal, reached between London and Brussels in November 2018 after long painful negotiations.

British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told MPs after the results were announced Monday that the House of Commons could avoid a no-deal Brexit, and avoid having to hold European elections, by voting for May’s deal this week.

"This is now the second time the House (of Commons) has considered a wide variety of options for a way forward. It has once again failed to find a clear majority for any of the options," he said.

"And yet the result of the House on Friday not to endorse the withdrawal agreement (May’s deal) means that the default legal position is that the UK will leave the EU in just 11 days’ time," he said.

It was not a message many of the MPs wanted to hear. Last week’s third defeat for May’s deal saw her losing by 58 votes, closer to the finishing line than the previously losing margins of 230 and 149 respectively. But still a wide gap to bridge.

Veteran Labour politician Hilary Benn, chair of the House of Commons Brexit committee, said he wants to know if May plans to ask Brussels to extend the April 12 deadline.

The focus now switches to Downing Street and Tuesday when the British cabinet meets.

It had been predicted that ministers might debate whether there should be a general election as a way forward.

That so-called nuclear option may now be put on hold following the results Monday.

As one leading political commentator speculated, May "may now go for meaningful vote four, or even five."

European Union leaders have given Britain until April 12, the latest Brexit date, to agree a deal, or else leave the regional bloc with no deal.

That would mean Britain trading under the World Trade Organization rules.

A special summit of EU leaders has been scheduled for April 10 to discuss the Brexit saga.

There was cold comfort from across the English Channel, according to the Guardian in London.

It reported that the European Parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt, said on his social media site after the Monday night results that a no-deal Brexit was "nearly inevitable."


British Prime Minister Theresa May says further extension to Article 50 needed

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May announced Tuesday night that Britain needs a further extension of Article 50, one that is "as short as possible" in order to ensure Britain to leave the European Union with a deal.

She also said she wants to sit down with the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to see if they can come up with a plan to break what she described as a logjam.

May said she hopes the British Parliament will still agree on a deal with Brussels by May 22, adding that leaving the EU with a deal remains the best solution.

She said if she and Corbyn cannot agree on a unified approach, a series of options for the future relationship would be put to the House of Commons in a series of votes.

May said the government would abide by the decision of the Commons, but only if Labour did so too.

"This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands and it requires national unity to deliver the national interests," said May.

The announcement followed a seven-hour long marathon meeting of senior ministers at a Downing Street Cabinet meeting.

Throughout the day political commentators had been speculating on what was being discussed by May and her team of government ministers.

Cabinet members themselves are deeply split over Brexit and how it should be resolved is a great reflection of a deep divide over the country.

British Prime Minister Theresa May offers to talk
with opposition leader on Brexit deadlock

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday offered to talk with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to break the current Brexit deadlock.

In her statement on Tuesday evening after seven hours of a cabinet meeting, May offered to sit down with Corbyn to try to agree a plan which allows Britain to leave the European Union with a deal.

Corbyn later said he was "very happy" to meet May, adding he recognized his "responsibility to represent the people that supported Labour in the last election and the people who didn’t support Labour".

Britain has until April 12, the latest Brexit date, to propose a plan to the European Union (EU), which must be accepted by them, or it will leave the regional bloc without a deal.

Meanwhile, the prime minister also said that she will seek a further extension to Article 50 following the eight-hour cabinet meeting in Downing Street.

"Leaving (the EU) with a deal is the best solution," May said in the televised statement.

"This debate, this division can not drag on much longer," she said.

"It is putting members of parliament and everyone else under immense pressure, and it is doing damage to our politics."

Her statement came after MPs rejected all four proposed alternative options in a second round of "indicative votes" on Monday night, leading the chief European Union negotiator, Michel Barnier, to say that a no-deal Brexit was more likely.

May said she hopes the British parliament could still agree a deal with Brussels by May 22.

"This is a decisive moment in the story of story of these islands and it requires national unity to deliver the national interests," she added.

Customs strikes over Brexit prompts traffic chaos in France

PARIS France (Xinhua) -- French customs officers, who had been staging a work-to-rule strike over Brexit since March, were expected to end their industrial action on Wednesday, suggesting a return to normal traffic of Eurostar trains, the operator said on Tuesday.

Eurostar, which is majority-owned by the French state rail operator SNCF, had recommended, passengers not to travel from Paris this period unless absolutely necessary. On March 29, it had expected traffic disruption until April 3.

In early March, French customs began work-to-rule strikes in the Channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais, northern France, as they followed regulations in detail to reduce efficiency and increase time.

Their action triggered severe delays and cancellations.

At Paris’ Gare du Nord railway station, where Eurostar trains leave for London, the strikes forced the operator to cut the services of four trains last Friday and by two trains at the weekend.

As a hard Brexit is looming, French customs officers are demanding higher pay and better working conditions to face the eventual pressure that Britain departure may trigger.

On March 12, French Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin announced "strong measures", worth 14 million euros (15.68 million U.S. dollars), to improve customs officers’ working conditions.

In addition to a planned rise in wages, the government also pledged to recruit additional 700 officers to handle British passengers’ check, who will no longer have European passports once Britain leaves the European bloc.

No-deal Brexit becomes "day after day more likely": EU negotiator

BRUSSELS (Xinhua) -- EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said here on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit was becoming more likely by the day after British lawmakers rejected alternative options.

The House of Commons’ rejection on Monday night of potential solutions to the current ordeal of Brexit has further dimmed the lights for an orderly divorce deal between London and Brussels.

"The only way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is and will be through a positive majority" in the British House of Commons, he said.

Barnier said Britain could have a long extension of Brexit, but only on the basis of "a strong justification".

Barnier said an extension beyond the end of May would require Britain to take part in European parliamentary elections, which "would carry significant risks for the EU and therefore strong justification would be needed".

That Britain could leave without an agreement with the European Union is "day after day more likely", he said. But he insisted that the European Union was prepared for this scenario.

Barnier made it clear that even if Britain asks for a long extension, the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened, and that negotiations on the country’s future relationship with the European Union cannot legally take place until Britain is no longer a member.

"We have always said that we can accept a customs union, or relationship along the style of the Norway model.

"The Political Declaration today can accommodate all of these options already. But if the UK so wishes we are ready to rework the Political Declaration" Barnier added.

French and Irish leaders urge May to table alternative Brexit plan

PARIS France (Xinhua) -- French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday that Britain risks leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement if Prime Minister, Theresa May, fails to come up with a credible deal allowing an amicable divorce.

Speaking ahead of talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Macron noted that the repeated refusal by British lawmakers to approve May’s Withdrawal Agreement would lead to a hard Brexit.

"It is up to the United Kingdom to come up with a credible alternative plan supported by a majority by April 10 to avoid (a no-deal exit)," Macron said.

Macron said that whether the alternative plan involved a snap election, a referendum or a customs union was for Britain to decide.

"It’s up to London to say it, and to say it now," the French president said, adding that "the EU cannot be held hostage to the resolution of a political crisis in the (UK) on a long-term basis."

"If the United Kingdom is not capable, almost three years after the referendum, of coming forward with a solution that is supported by a majority, it will have effectively chosen a no-deal exit on its own," he said.

The Irish prime minister noted that "as things stand, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union without a deal".

However, he also said that "there is still time for (Theresa May) to come to the European Council with proposals, proposals that are credible and have a clear pathway to success."

"We need to be open to any proposals that she may bring forward to us," Varadkar told reporters.

Varadkar called on the EU member states to avoid "a rolling extension", arguing that any delay of Britain’s departure "must have a clear purpose, clear plan".

Britain is formally scheduled to leave the EU on March 29.

However, European leaders have agreed to postpone the exit date until April 12 to give an amicable divorce a further chance.

Struggling to find majority support for her Brexit deal, May said on Tuesday she would ask the EU for a further delay to Brexit beyond April 12 in a fresh attempt to end the deadlock.

A special summit of EU leaders has been scheduled for April 10 to assess the latest twists in the Brexit saga.

Brexit fallout could have impact on Italy’s trade and unemployment

ROME Italy (Xinhua) -- Italy is likely to be forced to compensate for lower exports and perhaps even the return of thousands of mid-level and blue collar workers when Great Britain finally withdraws from the European Union.

The country had been expected to leave the European Union March 29. But the government secured an extension as the so-called "Brexit" negotiations stalled, with British lawmakers deciding which of four plans (or perhaps no plan at all) will be used to guide the first-ever departure of a nation from the European Union.

Meanwhile, the 27 member states that will remain in the European Union are bracing for the process of erecting commercial and immigration barriers between them and Europe’s second largest economy.

"By most measures, Italy will suffer less than other countries in Europe," Giuseppe De Arcangelis, a professor of international economics at Rome’s La Sapienza University, told Xinhua.

"But there will still be significant difficulties for Italy."

De Arcangelis and other analysts noted that in terms of negotiating the European Union’s terms for Brexit, Italy is staying in line with other European Union member states and so not charting its own course as it has done in some other areas.

But that does not make the country immune to direct impacts from the process, according to Antonio Villafranca, research coordinator and the co-head of the Center on Europe and Global Governance for the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, a think tank.

"Around 5 percent of Italy’s trade goes to Great Britain and there are those who say that percentage will shrink a little but that it won’t be too bad," Villafranca said in an interview.

"But I don’t agree. Italy’s trade surplus with Great Britain is worth 12 billion euros (13.5 billion U.S. dollars), which is not an insignificant amount. If that is reduced, it will be a blow to Italy’s economy."

Italy’s exports to Great Britain are concentrated in a few key areas such as manufactured mechanical parts, fashion items, and food and wine.

With Brexit in place, those items would be taxed differently, increasing prices and reducing demand.

The impacts would be concentrated more in the wealthier, industrialized northern parts of the country, Villafranca said.

"The exports won’t go to zero but they will be reduced," Villafranca said.

"For Italy’s economy, which is continually either in recession or on the edge of recession, that is an unwelcome development."

Depending on the Brexit plan that is eventually adopted, any gaps in trade rules could use those already in place with the World Trade Organization.

In that case, Villafranca and De Arcangelis said, it would be to Italy’s advantage to push for more specific trade terms quickly.

There’s another Italian export that De Arcangelis said worth taking into consideration: workers.

There are an estimated 250,000 Italians working in London, De Arcangelis said, the second largest diaspora in the city after those from Poland.

Depending on visa rules, some may be forced to leave.

"If that happens, highly-skilled workers will find job elsewhere," De Arcangelis said.

"But medium-skilled workers or lower-skilled workers like waiters or laborers won’t have that option.

Many may end up returning to Italy, where unemployment rates are already too high."


British lawmakers reject all four Brexit options in second round of unbinding vote

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British lawmakers on Monday voted to turn down all the four proposed Brexit options on the table, the second time since Friday that none of MPs’ proposed Brexit options wins clear backing in the House of Commons.

MPs voted down all the four Brexit proposals chosen by House Speaker John Bercow in a bid to break the current Brexit deadlock.

The British government has until April 12 to decide how Britain will leave the European Union (EU).

None of the four alternatives to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal receives support from a majority of MPs in the second round of "indicative vote," which kicked off at around 20:00 BST on Monday and whose results were announced at around 22:00 BST.

MPs voted 261 to 282 to reject the proposal that the United Kingdom stays in the single market and negotiates the customs union with the EU.

The customs union proposal means Britain’s close trading relations with the European Union after Brexit.

Under the Common Market 2.0 proposal, the UK would leave the EU, but retain the free flow of goods and make contributions to the EU budget.

Meanwhile, MPs also voted 191 to 292 to turn down the idea to give lawmakers power to stop a no-deal Brexit.

They voted 280 to 292 to oppose the proposal that confirmative public vote will be conducted on Brexit.

MPs also voted 273 to 276 to reject the proposal to negotiate permanent customs union with the EU.

None of the Monday votes on the proposals are legally binding, meaning it will be up to the British government if they act on the results.

Conservative MPs have been given a free vote, but cabinet ministers will be told to abstain.

The opposition Labour Party ordered its MPs to vote for the customs union.

Prime Minister May is seeking a fourth vote on her Withdrawal Agreement, which has been rejected by the parliament three times since January.

The first round of unbinding "indicative vote" was conducted on March 27, in which none of MPs’ eight proposed options secured a majority, but among them, the proposed options about a customs union with the Europan Union and a referendum on any deal received most support from the lawmakers.

Many of those eight options have returned for round two, but some have been replaced with new alternatives.

The prime minister, who is struggling to hold her party together, warned Sunday night that she faced resignation and a split in the Conservative Party if she agrees to pursue a "soft" Brexit this week.

The British cabinet is expected to meet on Tuesday morning to consider how to proceed with the vote outcomes amid speculation about possible resignations, a general election or change of Tory leader.

"My party refuses to compromise, I regret therefore that I can no longer sit for the party," an emotional Conservative MP Nick Boles said in the parliament chamber shortly after the announcement of the vote results to quit the party.

"I accept that I have failed," he added.

British cabinet ministers were once again reportedly instructed to boycott the votes as MPs make a second attempt to coalesce around an alternative deal.

May had suggested she would "engage constructively" with the indicative votes process.

May’s plan that she negotiated with the EU has been rejected twice by historic margins in Parliament.

The withdrawal agreement section of her deal was voted down again by MPs on Friday.

Mrs May now has until 12 April to either seek a longer extension from the EU to take a different course or decide to leave the EU without a deal.



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