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

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

More B.C. ambulance service needed in the North: Hospital chief of staff

Fort St. James physicians talk about the need for easier access to healthcare

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

Cullen remains uncertain about political future

Says he’ll make decision in early March

Terrace resident’s bill banning single-use plastics introduced in Ottawa

MP Nathan Cullen’s presented Ben Korving’s private member’s bill Wednesday

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Fashion Fridays: Must-have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Australian woman killed in avalanche at Whistler

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but she did not survive

Most Read