British Prime Minister Theresa May will tell lawmakers Monday the “vast majority” of a Brexit deal has been reached, as she faces mounting pressure at home over her perceived softening approach to the negotiations and rumors of a challenge to her leadership.
According to her prepared remarks, May will say “95 per cent of the withdrawal agreement and its protocols are now settled,” with significant progress in “the last three weeks alone.”
Her address to Parliament comes after massive protests in London Saturday demanding a second Brexit referendum.
She is also under pressure from the pro-Brexit wing in her party, who think she is conceding too much to EU negotiators. The weekend press in the UK was filled with anonymous briefing against May from some of her own party, much of it using violent imagery.
One lawmaker was quoted anonymously as saying the Prime Ministers should “bring her own noose” to a party meeting on Wednesday.
“I don’t intend to dignify those specific anonymous comments with a response,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister said at a briefing to journalists, according to Reuters. “What I would say is that the Prime Minister has always been very clear that we must set a tone in public discourse which is neither dehumanizing nor derogatory. ”
The biggest outstanding problem in Brexit talks remains the issue of how to avoid the need for border posts in Northern Ireland. European leaders want a “backstop” agreement, whereby Northern Ireland would remain aligned with European regulations on goods and services, including customs arrangements, thereby avoiding the need for border infrastructure.
May opposes this because, she argues, it amounts to splitting the UK into different customs zones.
“The commitment to avoiding a hard border is one that this House emphatically endorsed and enshrined in law in the Withdrawal Act earlier this year,” May will say on Monday.
“As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK.”
Last week, the EU dropped plans for a November summit on Brexit because of a lack of progress in negotiations and began preparations for a disastrous “no-deal” scenario when the clock runs out in March 2019.
European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday that the bloc was ready to extend the length of the transition period designed to smooth the UK’s exit from the 28-nation bloc next year, though he was more optimistic than previously about an imminent deal.
The original plan is for a 21-month period starting March 30, 2019, as soon as the UK has left.
“If the UK decided an extension of the transition period would be helpful to reach a deal, I am sure the leaders would be ready to consider it positively,” Tusk said.
Around half a million people took to the streets of London on Saturday, according to organizers of the People’s Vote March for the Future. CNN could not independently verify the number of marchers.
“This government is leading us towards either a bad Brexit deal or, even worse, no deal at all,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said at a rally in Trafalgar Square. “These options are a million miles away from what was promised. The government doesn’t have a mandate to gamble with our future,”
Organizers handed out postcards for people to write to their local lawmakers demanding a final say on the Brexit deal, rather than relying on Parliament to approve it.