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Minister urges divided UK MPs to find Brexit consensus

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — A senior government minister called Saturday for British MPs from all parties to "forge a consensus" on Brexit to avoid a potentially damaging "no deal" withdrawal from the European Union (EU) in March.

Work and pensions minister Amber Rudd said Brexit could succeed "if politicians are willing to try a different way and only if a coalition of those who want what's best for this country argue a little less and compromise a little more".

Her comments, in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper, come after Prime Minister Theresa May returned from an EU summit without the reassurances she said she needed to get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons.

Few people now believe the agreement, forged over 17 months of tough negotiations with Brussels, will pass in a vote of MPs planned for January.

That raises the prospect that Britain could leave the European Union with no arrangements at all on March 29.

Rudd opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum, and was reported by The Times newspaper to be among five cabinet ministers discussing whether another referendum is necessary if May's deal fails.

The prime minister has repeatedly ruled out holding a second referendum, but there is growing support for the idea among opposition Labour MPs.

In Brussels, EU leaders refused to renegotiate the Brexit deal and several said the problem of its ratification could be resolved only by MPs.

But the ruling Conservative party is deeply divided, and hardline Brexiteers this week forced a confidence vote in the prime minister.

May won but 117 of her colleagues — more than one-third — voted against her.

Afterwards, she called for MPs on all sides to come together, but aides said this referred to Conservatives and their Northern Irish allies, who are also opposed to the Brexit deal.

Some Labour MPs have complained that May has failed to engage with them to get a deal through Parliament.

But many Conservatives accuse Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of opposing the Brexit deal for political rather than substantial reasons, hoping the chaos in government will bring a snap election.

For now, Corbyn is demanding MPs have a vote on May's deal next week, and on Friday accused her of "recklessly running down the clock" as Brexit approaches on March 29.

He is under pressure to launch a confidence vote in the government in the Commons, but has held off so far because he believes May would win.

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