The Latest: EU Parliament’s top Brexit official backs deal

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s departure from the European Union (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

The top Brexit official at the European Parliament has welcomed the draft Brexit deal with Britain as “the best agreement we could obtain.” 

Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Brexit steering committee, said that, under the draft withdrawal agreement, disruptions will be kept to a minimum, and that there will be no “hard border” between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

He also said the deal protects the rights of citizens currently residing in each other’s nations and is a good basis for future relations between the EU and Britain.

The European Parliament must approve any deal and Verhofstadt predicted that could be done at the start of next year, well in time of the March 29, 2019 exit. 


11:40 a.m.

A leader of the pro-Brexit faction in Britain’s Conservative Party has threatened to call for a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Theresa May.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said in Parliament that the draft Brexit deal did not live up to promises May had made. He asked rhetorically, “should I not write” to Graham Brady, who heads a committee governing Conservative leadership contests.

A letter from Rees-Mogg would likely be followed by others from pro-Brexit lawmakers.

Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to Brady, head of the party’s so-called 1922 Committee of backbenchers.

If May lost a vote of the 315 Conservative lawmakers, she would be replaced. If she won, she would be safe from challenge for a year.


11:35 a.m.

Londoners are expressing skepticism over the Brexit deal that has been secured by Prime Minister Theresa May but that has already led to a swathe of resignations from her government.

The resignations, which have included Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, make it even more difficult for May to get her deal through Parliament.

Even before the resignations, Patrick Bolster, who works in Westminster, the seat of government, said the “parliamentary arithmetic looks very tricky indeed, so it’s very hard to call.”

And Robert Voykovic, a 54-year-old civil servant, said that “it (the vote) still remains to be seen whether it will go ahead as planned.

“I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be headed for a second referendum or a general election at some point.”


11:30 a.m.

The Northern Ireland party that props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government has condemned her draft Brexit deal, saying it could lead to the breakup of the U.K.

May has relied on the Democratic Unionist Party’s 10 lawmakers to win votes since she lost her parliamentary majority in 2017.

But the party opposes proposals in the Brexit deal to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. The DUP says the plans would treat Northern Ireland different to the rest of the U.K. in trade terms with the EU, weakening the bonds that hold the U.K. together.

The DUP leader in Parliament, Nigel Dodds, said the “choice is now clear: we stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice.”


11:10 a.m.

Romania’s government says the deal Britain struck to leave the European Union will provide security for hundreds of thousands of Romanians living in the country.

The foreign ministry welcomed the deal which “guarantees the protection of the rights,” of Romanians in Britain who’ll be able to keep on working, living and studying there after Dec. 2020 when Britain is set to leave the European single market that guarantees the free movement of anyone in the EU.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press, the ministry said the deal “limits the negative consequences” of Brexit for business and foreigners living in Britain.

Romanian officials estimate about half a million Romanians live in Britain, although just 190,000 are officially registered there.


10:55 a.m.

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says Prime Minister Theresa May must withdraw her “half-baked” Brexit deal with the European Union or Parliament will reject it.

Labour Party leader Corbyn says Parliament “cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal.”

May is fighting to keep the divorce agreement with the EU alive. It has drawn strong opposition from pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party, and several government ministers have resigned to oppose the deal.

Corbyn signaled that Labour would also oppose it if it comes to a vote in Parliament.


10:45 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is defending her besieged divorce deal with the European Union, saying she has taken “the right choices, not the easy ones.”

May is addressing Parliament after a flurry of resignations from her government by ministers opposed to the deal.

The departures — including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab — have undermined May’s authority and her ability to get the deal through Parliament.

She told lawmakers that they would get a vote on the deal before the U.K. leaves the bloc, and she would ask them to back it “in the national interest.”


10:30 a.m.

More ministers have quit the British government, piling pressure on embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.

Junior Brexit Minister Suella Braverman and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a junior education minister, have quit. They follow Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.

All are staunch supporters of Brexit and say the deal agreed between Britain and the bloc does not deliver the firm break with the EU that voters chose in a 2016 referendum.

May says the deal honors the referendum result while also maintaining close ties with the EU, Britain’s main trading partner. But her ability to get it through Parliament — and to remain as prime minister — are now in doubt.


10:10 a.m.

A second British Cabinet minister has resigned in protest at Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with the European Union.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey quit, saying the deal “does not honor the result of the referendum” in which Britain voted to leave the EU.

She resigned an hour after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab also quit, saying he could not “in good conscience” support the deal.

The resignations leave May’s Brexit deal, and her leadership of the Conservative Party, in peril.


9:15 a.m.

The pound has fallen sharply after Britain’s Brexit minister resigned from the government, saying he did not agree with the deal the country had struck with the European Union over the terms of its departure next March.

The currency dropped 1 percent, a relatively large decline for an established currency, to $1.2870 within minutes of a tweet by Dominic Raab saying he “cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Prime Minister Theresa May faces a political backlash over the deal, which is considered insufficient by Brexit backers as well as those who wanted to remain in the EU. Parliament needs to approve the deal and it is unclear whether May has the numbers to push it through.

May, who had persuaded a majority of her cabinet to back the deal, is addressing lawmakers Thursday morning.


9:05 a.m.

Britain’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has resigned, saying he “cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

The resignation is a big blow to Prime Minister Theresa May, who is due to address lawmakers later this morning on the draft Brexit deal.

She is already facing an uphill struggle to convince enough lawmakers in Parliament to accept the agreement with the European Union.

May made some major concessions to the EU to achieve the deal: Britain, for example, will remain tied to the European Union’s customs union during the transition period and potentially for much longer.

Raab said the agreement was unacceptable, and that “no democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.”


8:35 a.m.

British lawmakers are struggling to summon much enthusiasm for the proposed Brexit plan that Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed with the European Union, with the opposition Labour Party signaling it will vote against.

The opposition Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told the “Good Morning Britain” television program that the deal was a “miserable failure of negotiation,” signaling that May is unlikely to be able to count on the main opposition to make up for those from her own Conservative Party who look set to vote against.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC’s Radio 4 that lawmakers should back the draft divorce agreement because the alternatives were “ugly.”

“Ultimately this allows us to take back control,” he said.


8:25 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will start on a campaign to sell a Brexit deal agreed with the European Union to Britain’s divided Parliament.

May, who has persuaded a majority of her cabinet to back the deal, is addressing lawmakers Thursday morning over the terms of the proposed divorce deal. Many in her own party oppose the deal for leaving Britain too closely tied to the European bloc and opposition parties have said they’ll vote against.

Pacifying some in her own party will be a challenge and on Thursday Shailesh Vara quit as Northern Ireland Minister, saying he could not support May’s agreement, which he said “leaves the UK in a halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation.”


7:45 a.m.

European Union chief Donald Tusk has called for a summit of leaders to take place on Nov. 25 so they can endorse a draft Brexit deal that has been reached with the British government.

Following an early Thursday meeting, Tusk heaped praise on the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who had “achieved the two most important objectives” — limiting the damage caused by Britain’s impending departure and maintaining the interests of the other 27 countries that will remain in the bloc after Brexit.

While British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to win support within her fractured party as well as Parliament, the EU has held the line behind Barnier during the negotiations.

Categories: International News