No renegotiation on Brexit deal if parliament rejects it: minister

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 07, 2017 11:43 AM

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will not seek further talks with the European Union if parliament rejects the exit deal it reaches, the government said in a statement on Tuesday, as ministers resisted pressure to give lawmakers more say on the terms of the final agreement.

The statement, which echoes Prime Minister Theresa May's stance that "no deal is better than a bad deal," came as parliament debated a law that would give her the power to begin exit negotiations with the EU.

Last month, May promised to ask parliament to approve the final exit terms, but said that even if it rejected the deal, Britain would leave the EU, raising concern among some lawmakers that their vote would be purely symbolic.

Asked whether the government would go back to the negotiating table if parliament rejected the deal, junior Brexit minister David Jones said: "I can't think of a greater signal of weakness than for this House to send the government back to the European Union and to say we want to negotiate further ... therefore I can't agree with it."

Jones also said that if Britain and the EU could not come to a Brexit deal within the two-year timeframe allowed under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, Britain would ultimately fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms of trade.

Opposition lawmakers want to use the bill going through parliament as a way to attach extra conditions to May's plan to trigger Brexit talks by March 31.

The most contentious focus on calls for a "meaningful vote" on the final exit deal and could see an embarrassing defeat for the government if enough members of May's Conservative Party defy their leader's wishes.

That vote will take place later on Tuesday.

Seeking to allay any such rebellion, Jones told lawmakers that parliament would be given a vote on the final deal before the European parliament debates and votes on the agreement. [nS8N1EY00P]

Lawmakers (MPs) reacted angrily when it emerged they would not be able to force the government back to the negotiating table.

"MPs must not be duped by the government's attempt to quell unrest on their back benches," said Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas.

"The vote they're offering - which will give MPs a choice between an extreme Brexit and falling off a cliff edge into WTO trade rules - isn't a concession, it's an ultimatum."

(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison)