EU lawmakers urge Britain to call off Brexit | News | DW | 14.01.2019
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EU lawmakers urge Britain to call off Brexit

Scores of MEPs have made an emotional appeal to Britain's government to think about future generations and remain in the European Union. The lawmakers say they want to "send a signal" that the UK is welcome to stay.

In an open letter quoted by newspapers belonging to Germany's Funke media group Monday, more than 100 members of the European Parliament called on the United Kingdom to call off Brexit, saying such a decision would be welcome in the EU.

The draft letter is expected to be published in Britain a day before a crucial vote in Parliament on Prime Minister Theresa May's draft Brexit deal. Observers are expecting the draft to fail in the legislature.

Later on Monday, the situation became even more untenable for May when Conservative whip Gareth Johnson, who had been tasked with maintaining discipline in the party ahead of the vote, tendered his resignation. "I cannot, in all conscience, support the government's position," Johnson wrote, adding that it was "detrimental to our nation's interests."

What lawmakers said:

  • "Any British decision to stay in the EU would be greatly welcomed by us."
  • "We would work with you to reform and improve the European Union."
  • "(We have) greatly valued the tremendous influence of British politicians and citizens over the past 40 years."
  • "We would miss the extraordinary expertise of our British colleagues."

Read more: Opinion: Britain's hour of destiny

Welcome to stay

Peter Liese, MEP and Christian Democrat in the center-right European People's Party (EPP), told the Funke group: "We want to send a signal to the people and, as such, to the House of Commons, and make it clear that if the British decide to stay, they are welcome."

Manfred Weber, also of the EPP, told DW that the chaos of the past two years had taught both the EU and the UK that "it is much better to reform the European Union than to leave ... the European Union," because Britain was creating "so much damage" for itself, while the EU was being brought closer together by the Brexit process.

Read more: No Brexit renegotiation, Angela Merkel tells Bundestag

Within Germany, industry leaders have warned of the dire consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said: "In Germany, about 750,000 jobs depend on trade with the United Kingdom. Without a deal, millions of additional customs declarations and billions of custom duties would need to be paid."

Watch video 03:28
Now live
03:28 mins.

Manfred Weber of the European People's Party on Brexit

Temporary measures

In a separate letter, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker provided Britain's government with further assurances that a backstop to prevent a hard border in Ireland was a temporary provision.

"The commission can confirm that, just like the United Kingdom, the European Union does not wish to see the backstop enter into force," the letter said. "The commission can also confirm the European Union's determinate to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that would ensure the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing."

But, according to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a junior coalition partner in May's government, the European Union's reassurances about the backstop do not go far enough to secure the draft Brexit deal.

"The letter isn't legally binding," DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the British broadcaster BBC. "The prime minister will struggle to justify what the delay was about."

Watch video 02:15
Now live
02:15 mins.

Brexit: Leavers and Remainers face off outside Parliament

Crucial vote

The House of Commons is scheduled to hold a pivotal vote on May's Brexit plans on Tuesday. But observers believe that she doesn't have enough support to make it through.

Some British lawmakers have suggested extending the Brexit deadline, which is currently set for March 29. Weber, the EPP's candidate to lead the European Parliament, said such an extension should not go beyond the EU legislature's elections, slated for May.

Read more: Germany pledges full EU support for Ireland over Brexit

Ahead of the vote on May's draft deal, the prime minister spoke to factory workers in Stoke-on-Trent, a postindustrial town that voted overwhelmingly for Brexit.

During her speech, she said she believed that lawmakers would opt to remain in the EU rather than crash out of the bloc without a deal.

"There are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so," May said. She called on lawmakers to "consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy."

Read more: Opinion: What happened to Brexit architect David Cameron?

In a last-ditch attempt to win over Parliament, May admitted that the deal "is not perfect, and, yes, it is a compromise" but urged lawmakers to give it "a second look."

"When the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask: Did we deliver on the country's vote to leave the European Union? Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union. Or did we let the British people down?" May told the House of Commons.

"I say we should deliver for the British people, and get on with building a better future for our country by backing this deal, and I commend this statement to the House," May concluded.

ls, es/msh (AFP, dpa)

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