Top Stories
Top Stories
Brexit

'Imagine the US being governed by Mexico?': Why some UK lawmakers hated the Brexit deal

Key Points
  • The U.K.'s Brexit deal with the European Union is dead in the water after a majority of lawmakers rejected the withdrawal agreement in a crucial vote.
  • The agreement was rejected by 149 votes — which included 75 members of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's own Conservative Party and the majority of opposition parties in Parliament.
  • Lawmakers from each of the main political parties in the U.K. told CNBC why they voted against the deal.
A European Union (EU) flag flies outside the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Thursday, March 7, 2019.
Luke MacGregor | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.K.'s Brexit deal with the European Union is dead in the water after a majority of lawmakers rejected the withdrawal agreement in a crucial vote.

The agreement was rejected by 149 votes — which included 75 members of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's own Conservative Party and the majority of opposition parties in Parliament.

Lawmakers from each of the main political parties in the U.K. told CNBC why they were so compelled to vote against the deal.

"Imagine in America if the American people found themselves governed by, shall we say, a mixture of Canada, Mexico and South America over and above Congress and that the Supreme Court itself would be subject to a superior court — they just simply couldn't even believe it was happening," Bill Cash, a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) and a prominent Brexiteer told CNBC Wednesday.

VIDEO1:0201:02
Remaining in EU 'very bad news' for the UK, politician says

"Remember that the American War of Independence was about no taxation without representation. The reality is that this is the kind of principle that is coming to the fore and this is why we voted against the withdrawal agreement — because we have to govern ourselves," he told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating from the 1700s that reflected the resentment of American colonists at being taxed by a British Parliament to which they elected no representatives, symbolizing anti-British sentiment before the American Revolution.

The contentious backstop

Cash is a prominent member of the European Research Group (ERG), a euroskeptic pressure group of Conservative MPs that has campaigned for Brexit. Cash led a committee of lawyers appointed by the group to scrutinize the Brexit deal and legal assurances given over the "Irish backstop."

The backstop was an insurance policy to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland (a part of the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (a member of the EU) and a way to keep trade, goods and people moving freely on the island if the U.K. and EU could not agree a trade deal in the 21-month transition period after Brexit.

Although seen as a last resort, the backstop was contentious for many Brexiteers because it would have kept the U.K. in a customs union with the EU for an indefinite amount of time and, crucially, the U.K. could not withdraw from the backstop unilaterally.

May's government is propped up by support from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and it indicated Tuesday afternoon that it would, similarly to most members of the ERG, reject May's deal.

Disgruntlement

Cash said it was "inconceivable" to allow Northern Ireland to be governed separately from the U.K. but it's not only Brexiteers that were unhappy with May's Brexit deal. Remainer and pro-Scottish independence politician Nicola Sturgeon, the head of the Scottish National Party, tweeted that the deal's defeat was "entirely predictable" and that the government had been "pandering to Brexit extremists" and had spent too much time "trying to appease" the ERG and DUP.

MP Tom Brake, a member of the staunchly "Remainer" Liberal Democrats and the party's Brexit spokesman, told CNBC Tuesday evening that the deal "offended" him.

"(The withdrawal agreement) does not satisfy anything like a majority of MPs. I find it offends me because it doesn't give us that close relationship with the EU that I would like, and in fact I would like us to stay in the EU, but it also offends hard Brexiteers who really don't want any relationship with the EU at all."

Richard Burgon, a member of the opposition Labour party, said that a way out of the parliamentary impasse was for the prime minister to look at his party's suggestion that the U.K. remains in a permanent customs union with the EU.

"Parliament can make it clear again and again to the prime minister that a Brexit deal is possible that commands the support of the majority of the House of Commons but not on the basis that she's pushing it," he told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick Tuesday evening.

Related Tags