Drop hard Brexit plans, demand MPs

The Observer reports: Senior Tory and Labour MPs called on Theresa May to forge a new cross-party approach to Brexit as fears grew that the prime minister’s weakness could lead to the imminent collapse of talks on the UK’s exit from the European Union.

In a dramatic demonstration of May’s loss of authority, as a result of Thursday’s general election – which stripped her of a Commons majority – the MPs demanded that she in effect drop her own Tory “hard Brexit” plans in favour of a new “national” consenus, that would be endorsed by members from all sides of the House of Commons.

The proposal, if adopted, would throw open the debate on what kind of Brexit the country wants, with just a week to go before May is due to lead the country in formal negotiations with the EU on the terms of exit.

It comes as senior EU figures expressed their concerns that the process could collapse because of May’s lack of authority in what are bound to be many months of tough and complex talks. A leading Christian Democrat ally of the German chancellor Angela Merkel – the MEP Elmar Brok – told the Observer that the chances of a collapse in the talks had significantly increased. “The British people saw through her [May]. The negotiations have become more difficult because Britain has not got a government of real authority,” he said.

May went to the country asking for a mandate on Brexit only to lose her Commons majority. In an intervention that will alarm hardline pro-Brexit Tories, the former foreign office minister Alistair Burt, backed by ex-education secretary Nicky Morgan and other pro-EU Tories, said Brexit could only be agreed and delivered if the Conservative minority government built cross-party support behind a plan that would unite politicians and the country. [Continue reading…]

The Observer reports: Theresa May had set Britain on a course for a hard Brexit, prioritising sovereignty at the expense of close economic ties. Nevertheless, most EU governments had hoped she would win big on 8 June, so that she would be strong enough to face down the Tory right in pushing through painful compromises. They now face a prime minister whose authority is crumbling. Yet the general election makes the prospect of a softer Brexit plausible.

May’s instincts are probably to keep pushing for the hard Brexit that her right wing desires. But there is no parliamentary majority for a hard Brexit. Just a few pro-EU Tories could join opposition MPs to defeat May. If she wants to pass the Brexit deal – and the many Brexit-related laws that are required – she will have to collaborate with Labour and other opposition MPs.

Such a volte-face would be uncharacteristic of May. But if she doesn’t reinvent herself as a soft Brexiter, it is hard to see how she can stay in office. And if she falls, her successor will find that survival means working with the opposition to achieve a softer version of Brexit. [Continue reading…]

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