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Posted at: Dec 6, 2018, 1:37 AM; last updated: Dec 6, 2018, 1:37 AM (IST)

May’s Brexit deal under fire as legal advice stiffens opposition

Chances of Britain calling off pact altogether have increased: JP Morgan
May’s Brexit deal under fire as  legal advice stiffens opposition
Pro-Brexit demonstrators protest in London on Wednesday. AFP

LONDON, December 5

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal came under fire from allies and opponents alike on Wednesday after the government was forced to publish legal advice showing the UK could be locked indefinitely in the European Union’s orbit.

After a string of humiliating parliamentary defeats for May the day before cast new doubt over her ability to get a deal approved, US investment bank JP Morgan said the chances of Britain calling off Brexit altogether had increased.

As investors and allies tried to work out the ultimate destination for the world’s fifth largest economy, the Northern Irish party which props up May’s government said legal advice about the deal was “devastating”.

May was forced by Parliament to publish advice from the government’s top lawyer about the fallback mechanism, or backstop, to prevent the return of border controls between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the EU-member Irish Republic.

“Despite statements in the Protocol that it is not intended to be permanent and the clear intention of the parties that it should be replaced by alternative, permanent arrangements, in international law the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place,” the advice said.

“In the absence of a right of termination, there is a legal risk that the United Kingdom might become subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations.”

Brexit, the United Kingdom’s biggest economic and political shift since World War Two, has repeatedly plunged British politics into crisis since the shock 2016 vote to leave the EU.

Now May is trying to get her deal approved by a parliament which shows every sign of striking it down in a vote on December 11. It is unclear what happens if the deal is rejected as Britain is due to leave on March 29.

“The UK now appears to have the option of revoking unilaterally and taking a period of time of its own choosing to decide what happens next,” JP Morgan economist Malcolm Barr wrote in a note to clients. 

He placed a 10% probability on a no-deal Brexit, down from 20%, and a 50% probability on an orderly Brexit, down from 60%. The chance of no Brexit at all doubled to 40% from 20%, in a sign of perhaps the biggest shift in perception since the 2016 vote to leave. — Reuters

‘Betrayal would hurt UK more than leaving’ 

  • A Brexit outcome that left a large segment of the British people feeling betrayed would damage the country more than the small economic cost of PM May’s Brexit plan, Finance Minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday
  • Hammond told parliament’s Treasury Committee of the dangers of rejecting May’s plan and either not leaving the EU at all or abruptly breaking most ties with the bloc
  • The Finance Minister said it would be “catastrophic” for Britain if it remained mired in the Brexit debate for years to come. “We have to resolve this,” he said

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