Europe Politics

May tells UK lawmakers to 'hold nerve' as date set for new Parliament Brexit vote

Key Points
  • May's earlier Brexit withdrawal deal with Europe firmly has previously been rejected by the U.K. Parliament.
  • A second vote is scheduled to be held on February 27th.
UK PM May makes Brexit speech in Parliament

British Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers that the U.K. Parliament will get another chance to vote on her deal to exit Europe before the end of February.

May said if there is no deal by Tuesday 26 February, the government will make a statement to MPs on that day, and hold a debate on an amendable motion the following day.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday, May also asked for more time to negotiate with the European Union (EU).

"The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House has required and deliver Brexit on time," May said.

Following the speech, the main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May was "running down the clock" in a bid to force lawmakers to accept her deal.

Labour’s Corbyn: PM May playing chicken with livelihoods

May wants European counterparts to adjust the terms of the "backstop" that currently forms part of the Withdrawal Agreement. If that occurs, she could likely secure a majority in Parliament.

The backstop is an arrangement that acts as a means to prevent any hard border being erected on the island of Ireland between the Republic of Ireland which is staying In Europe and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom and is set to leave the EU.

Prior to the statement, the pound sat at 1.2861 versus the dollar and was largely unmoved as she spoke.

Customs union

May had already rejected a proposal by the opposition Labour Party that suggested it could vote with the government on an exit plan that would retain a customs union with Europe.

The U.K. leader said membership of the customs union would be "less desirable" than what has been set out and had already been rejected by U.K. lawmakers.

A customs union is an agreement that allows partaking countries to set common external tariffs, allowing goods to travel freely between those countries.

UK PM: Will make statement to parliament on Feb. 26 if no deal by then

The arrangement allows manufacturers to move goods and parts around the continent — which currently includes Britain and Northern Ireland — without cost or delay.

Remaining in such an arrangement is seen as problematic to those who support the concept of Britain and Northern Ireland setting up its own trade deals with other nations.

As things stand, the legal default is that the United Kingdom will leave the EU on March 29, 2019 with no agreed deal on trade, laws or travel.