LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday evening that Parliament must make the “final decision” on whether the United Kingdom abandons the European Union with an agreement with the bloc or in a non-negotiated manner or postpones its break with Europe.
May, who asked Brussels for an extension until June 30 before Brexit goes into effect, made a short televised address to the nation from her official residence at No. 10 Downing Street after a meeting with representatives of the opposition parties.
She said that she personally regretted the fact that Brexit will not proceed as originally contemplated on March 29, asking to delay Britain’s withdrawal until June 30, and she said she would explain her reasons to EU leaders at a Brussels summit on Thursday.
A longer delay would obligate the UK to participate in the Europe-wide parliamentary elections in May, a situation that would lead to a “bitter and divisive” campaign, May said, urging lawmakers to reach a consensus about which road to follow regarding Brexit.
“It is high time we made a decision. So far Parliament has done everything possible to avoid making a choice ... tabling motion after motion and amendment after amendment,” said May in her televised address.
“All MPs have been willing to say is what they don’t want,” she said, adding that “I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30.”
Before the summit of European leaders scheduled for Thursday in Brussels, May reiterated her call to British lawmakers to back the Brexit accord according to the exit terms finalized with the EU last November and which the House of Commons has defeated twice by a wide margin.
May insisted that the agreement, as it stands, is the best that could be negotiated with the EU, adding that she will continue to work “night and day” to gain the support of her Conservative Party colleagues who have been critical of the pact and her partners in the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland.
In her televised message, May emphasized that Britons are tired of the Brexit process and “have had enough.”
“Of this, I am absolutely sure: You the public have had enough. You are tired of the infighting, you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns” about schools, the National Health Service and crime.
Early this week, the British government evaluated the idea of voting for a third time on the Brexit accord before the EU summit, but the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, warned that he will not agree to a new vote on the pact if it is not modified in light of the vote on it held on March 12.
British media outlets are speculating about the possibility that May might once again try to call a vote on the matter next week.
Before her appearance on Wednesday evening, the prime minister had invited the leaders of the main opposition parties to a meeting to explain to them her decision to ask for an extension of the exit deadline.
Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, however, refused to enter the meeting room when he learned of the presence at the gathering of Chuka Umunna, one of the eight Labor lawmakers who left the party in February to form – along with three conservatives – an independent group, according to other participants.
A spokesman for Corbyn told the media that Downing Street had failed to adhere to the terms that had been agreed to for the meeting.