May Heads to Brussels as Lawmakers Move to Block No-Deal Brexit


U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to Brussels on Monday to personally intervene in deadlocked exit negotiations with the European Union, a day after details emerged of cross-party talks to prevent her from leaving the bloc without an agreement.

May, who also called German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, will meet over dinner with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier ahead of Thursday’s European Summit. The latest round of talks hit an impasse last week over how much the U.K. will pay when it leaves. Both sides raised the prospect of Britain crashing out without a deal.

Lawmakers in the House of Commons are working across the political divide to block that from happening, said John McDonnell, finance spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party.

“I don’t think there’s a majority in Parliament for no deal,” McDonnell said on BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “On a cross-party basis, you will see in the debates in the coming weeks, the government will get the message: there will be a deal.”

Ministers have repeatedly said it would be better for the U.K. to quit the bloc with no agreement on its future trading relationship than to settle for a bad deal. Some hardliners in May’s Conservative Party actively favor such an outcome, even as businesses say it would be catastrophic. As things stand, Britain will automatically tumble out of the bloc in 2019, with or without a deal.

Read more: As Brexit Clock Ticks Down, Access to Medicines Seen at Risk

The prime minister said last week that contingency plans are being drawn up, although Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the expectation is that, even after last week’s deadlock, an accord can be reached.

The talks, which are being led by Brexit Secretary David Davis, are “where I would have expected them to be” at this stage, Grayling told the BBC. “Nobody ever thought we were going to have negotiations that would last half an hour.”

May and Merkel agreed on “the importance of continued constructive progress,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement after their Sunday morning call.

The discussion came after Germany’s representatives at the EU joined with the French to tone down a draft declaration on Brexit prepared for this week’s summit, which they said was too positive. They wanted it to make clear that serious issues remain unresolved, and that moving on to trade talks isn’t a forgone conclusion, according to an official familiar with the discussions.

A new draft is scheduled to be circulated on Monday as EU leaders seek to preserve agreement among the bloc’s 27 other members, in the face of British attempts to break their unity.

Boris’s Efforts

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who’s overseen a charm offensive to win over some of the EU’s smaller states, met with his counterparts from eight former communist countries at his official country residence on Sunday to emphasize Britain’s commitment to their security after Brexit.

As talks in Brussels stumble, the government’s efforts to drive through Parliament its key legislation on pulling the U.K. out of the bloc have also been held up, with more than 300 amendments already proposed by lawmakers. 

Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, told the BBC’s “Sunday Politics” show that “there’s no way we would vote for no deal. That would be catastrophic.”

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