UK’s May appeals to public on Brexit, braces for more blows

British Prime Minister Theresa May answered questions from callers on a radio phone-in, the day after she vowed to stay in office

UK’s May appeals to public on Brexit, braces for more blows

British Prime Minister Theresa May appealed directly to voters to back her Brexit plan Friday as she braced for a potential leadership challenge from rivals within her party.

May answered questions from callers on a radio phone-in, the day after she vowed to stay in office and see through Britain’s exit from the European Union.

It was not an easy ride. One caller said May should resign and let a more staunchly pro-Brexit politician take over; another compared her to Neville Chamberlain, the 1930s prime minister who vainly tried to appease Nazi Germany to avoid a war.

May stood by her plan.

“For a lot of people who voted ‘leave,’ what they wanted to do was make sure that decisions on things like who can come into this country would be taken by us here in the U.K., and not by Brussels, and that’s exactly what the deal I’ve negotiated delivers,” she said.

May is battling to save her Brexit plan, and her job, after the draft withdrawal agreement between Britain and the EU sparked fierce opposition from euroskeptic politicians in her Conservative Party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to EU rules it has no say in making.

READ MORE: EU divorce deal in peril after two UK Cabinet ministers quit

Several Conservative lawmakers are pushing for a no-confidence vote, hoping to reach a threshold of 48 to trigger a challenge. If May lost her job as party leader, she would also lose her position as prime minister.

Sky News reported Friday that all Conservative whips had been summoned to London, amid rumours that 48 letters had been submitted.

May got one piece of good news, when Environment Secretary Michael Gove decided not to follow two Cabinet colleagues and quit over the divorce deal.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey quit Thursday, saying they could not support the agreement. Like them, Gove was a strong supporter of the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum.

Gove said Friday that he “absolutely” had confidence in May, adding that he would work with government colleagues to achieve “the best future for Britain.” But he did not answer when asked if he supported May’s Brexit deal.

A defiant May vowed Thursday to “see this through,” and said abandoning her Brexit plan, with Britain’s exit just over four months away on March 29, would plunge the country into “deep and grave uncertainty.

The political turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound. On Friday it recouped some gains, trading 0.4 per cent higher at $1.2821, partly on relief that Gove didn’t join the others in quitting the government.

But investors and businesses remain worried about the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU in March without a deal. That could see tariffs on British exports, border checks, restrictions on travellers and workers and interruption to the supply of goods.

“The markets are looking for a deal,” said Michael Baker, a financial analyst at ETX Capital. “They’re looking for some sort of agreement, some sort of orderly withdrawal for the U.K. to come out of the European Union.”

Simon Kempton of police officers’ union the Police Federation said a “no-deal” Brexit could spark protests, and “it’s a real concern that those protests might escalate into disorder.”

“It’s 2018. It’s the year that people dial (emergency number) 999 because KFC ran out of chicken,” he told Sky News. “If that will happen, imagine what will happen if we start seeing food or medical supply shortages.”

EU leaders, who have called a Nov. 25 summit in Brussels to sign off on the draft agreement, were doing their best to refrain from commenting on Britain’s political chaos.

But French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday called some British politicians “liars” who fooled voters into thinking leaving the EU would be easy and in their interests.

“The truth is that Brexit could end with a nightmare,” he said at a conference in Paris on reforming the global trade system.

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The Binche Fishing Derby at Stuart Lake is fast approaching. (Binche Fishing Derby Facebook photo)
Binche shares excitement for upcoming fishing derby

“It’s more than just fishing,” says Dave Birdi

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read