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Business and unions call for May to change course on Brexit

By Sean Farrell

Date: Thursday 21 Mar 2019

Business and unions call for May to change course on Brexit

(Sharecast News) - Britain's employers and unions have called on Theresa May to abandon her uncompromising stance and seek consensus to avoid a "reckless" no-deal Brexit, while European Union leaders convened to decide on her request for an extension.

The heads of the CBI and TUC have written a joint letter to May asking for an urgent meeting as the EU meets to discuss Brexit.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn and TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady wrote to May on behalf of millions of workers and thousands of businesses

They said: "Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar. Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come."

They called on May to acknowledge "the reckless damage" leaving with no deal would cause and to secure an extension of the 29 March Brexit deadline.

Following May's speech in Downing Street the previous evening, in which she blamed MPs for not accepting her deal, Fairbairn and O'Grady said: "The current deal or no deal must not be the only choice. A Plan B must be found - one that protects workers, the economy and an open Irish border, commands a parliamentary majority, and is negotiable with the EU. A new approach is needed to secure this - whether through indicative votes or another mechanism for compromise."


May has written to the EU asking for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline but Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said the EU would only grant such a delay if Parliament had voted for May's deal, which MPs have rejected twice.

May headed to Brussels on Thursday where she will ask the EU to agree to her request for an extension. EU leaders have said consistently an extension would require something new from the UK.

France's Emmanuel Macron, who has been reported to be particularly unwilling to grant an extension, said as he arrived at the summit that the withdrawal agreement "cannot be renegotiated" and in the event of another no vote in Britain, "we will be heading towards a no deal".

Germany's Angla Merkel said May could have an extension, ideally to around 23 May, but if the PM fails to secure backing for a deal in London, the EU was braced for the worst.

If May fails to win support from MPs early next week, EU leaders expect to return for an emergency council where they would decide whether or not the UK could have another year or two to find a new solution.

If not, then Britain would crash out with no deal next Friday unless the government revokes Article 50.


Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, was in Brussels for talks with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Corbyn said he was seeking a constructive alternative to May's deal.

The prime minister's speech has inflamed divisions over Brexit further. Labour MPs and some Tories criticised May's divisive tone. The former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a remainer, said it made him ashamed to be a Conservative.

A petition calling on the Theresa May to scrap Brexit repeatedly crashed Parliament's petitions website as it amassed more than 800,000 signatures in less than a day.

The petition, posted on 20 August, quickly amassed the 100,000 signatures needed for it to be considered for a debate in Parliament. It crashed the petitions site at least twice the next day and was restored with more than 845,000 signatures at 12:40 GMT.

Headed "revoke article 50 and remain in the EU", the petition said: "The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is 'the will of the people'. We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People's Vote may not happen - so vote now."

Corbyn was asked if he would consider revoking Article 50 and he did not rule it out.


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