Reuters LONDON (Reuters) — British 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 Britain 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, U.S. investment bank J.P. 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.”
Report: May urged to delay vote
The Times newspaper said senior ministers were urging May to delay a crucial vote in Parliament scheduled for Dec. 11 out of concern that she risked a defeat so big it could bring down her government.
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, Britain’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 Dec. 11. It is unclear what happens if the deal is rejected as Britain is due to leave on March 29.
Senior EU diplomats said they might be able to help May by making small changes to the deal she agreed with other EU leaders last month before she tries again to get support in Parliament.
Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, confirmed the DUP intended to vote against May’s plan next week, but it would continue to support her government.
“Having achieved our aim, trying to get to a better deal, it would be a bit illogical to turn around the next day and say, ‘Right, let’s get the government out,’” Dodds told ITV television.
A group of lawmakers who want a more definitive break from the EU than envisaged by May’s plan said the government had invited senior lawmakers to a briefing on Thursday at its emergency planning body on the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
A source from within the group dismissed the move as an attempt to spook senior parliamentarians.
On Wednesday, one of May’s chief party enforcers listened to the concerns of euroskeptics in her governing Conservative Party and DUP.
On Tuesday, just hours before the start of a five-day debate in the British Parliament on May’s Brexit deal, a top law official at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said Britain could pull back its formal divorce notice.
Scotland rejects deal
EDINBURGH (Reuters) — Scottish political parties joined forces on Wednesday to show their opposition to both British Prime Minister Theresa May’s “damaging” deal for leaving the European Union and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
The symbolic vote — which was not supported by the Scottish Conservatives allied to May — was a rare example of near-unity on a constitutional issue in the nationalist-led devolved Parliament.
It also showed the level of anger about Brexit in Scotland, where most voters backed staying in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
The vote does not have any direct impact on the debate in Britain’s Parliament where May’s draft Brexit agreement with other EU leaders appears headed for defeat on Dec. 11, with no clarity on what could happen next.
“Scotland needs and deserves better than the prime minister’s blindfold Brexit,” Michael Russell, Scotland’s constitutional relations minister, told the chamber.