Theresa May said the U.K. might never leave the European Union if Parliament rejects her Brexit deal in a crunch vote next week.
The prime minister urged critics in her own Conservative Party to compromise for the sake of delivering on the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum by backing the divorce agreement she’s brokered with the bloc in a vote on March 12.
“Back it and the U.K. will leave the European Union. Reject it and no one knows what will happen,” May told an audience in Grimsby, north-east England on Friday. “We may not leave the EU for many months. We may leave without the protections that the deal provides. We may never leave at all.”
May issued her warning just four days before Parliament votes for a second time on whether to accept or reject the separation agreement she’s spent two years negotiating with the EU. In January, the Commons threw out the agreement, defeating May by a record 230-vote majority.
In the two months since, the premier has been trying to extract changes to the deal from the bloc to address concerns of MPs that the so-called Irish border backstop plan will lock Britain into EU trade rules indefinitely.
One More Push
Those discussions have at times been “difficult and robust,” May said on Friday. She appealed to EU leaders to act now to prevent more uncertainty and the threat of an economically damaging split with no new trade terms in place.
“Now is the moment for us to act,” May said. “It needs just one more push to address the final specific concerns of our Parliament.”
There have been suggestions that EU leaders will wait until the last moment before the U.K. is due to exit the bloc on March 29 before making any concession -- but May said that would be too late. If her deal is rejected on Tuesday, Parliament will then vote on leaving without a deal, and then on a delay to Brexit, prolonging the doubts and divisions, she said.
“So let’s not hold back. Let’s do what is necessary for MPs to back the deal on Tuesday,” May said. “Because if MPs reject the deal, nothing is certain. It would be at a moment of crisis.”
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