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UK Labour Opp to Reject May Brexit Deal09/25 06:23

   LONDON (AP) -- Britain's main opposition Labour Party said Tuesday it will 
reject Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal with the European 
Union when it comes to a vote in Parliament, saying the government was offering 
the country a choice between "really bad and even worse."

   If Britain and the EU agree on a deal, it must be approved by individual 
nations before Britain leaves. In the U.K. that means a vote by lawmakers, and 
the math looks ominous for May's government, which lacks an overall majority.

   Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told Labour's annual conference that the party 
would vote against a deal along the lines May is proposing because it does not 
meet "six tests" it has set, including protecting workers' rights and retaining 
access to European markets.

   "We do not accept that the choice is between whatever the prime minister 
manages to cobble together and no deal ... between really bad and even worse," 
Starmer said.

   Starmer said that if Parliament rejected the deal there should be a new 
election.

   "If that is not possible we must have other options," he said. "Our options 
must include campaigning for a public vote -- and nobody is ruling out 'remain' 
as an option."

   Starmer's suggestion that a new referendum could reverse the 2016 decision 
to leave the EU -- which was not in the printed text of his speech released in 
advance -- drew a standing ovation from many delegates in the conference hall.

   Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has long opposed the idea of a new referendum, 
saying the party must respect voters' decision to leave.

   But with Britain due to exit the EU in six months, on March 29, and 
negotiations at an impasse, Corbyn is under intense pressure from members to 
change course.

   Conference delegates are expected later Tuesday to back a compromise motion 
leaving the option of a second referendum open, but not calling for it directly.

   EU leaders rejected the Conservative government's blueprint for future trade 
ties at a fractious summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg last week.

   May's plan seeks to keep the U.K. in the EU single market for goods but not 
for services, in order to ensure free trade with the bloc and an open border 
between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. But EU officials say 
that amounts to unacceptable "cherry-picking" of elements of membership in the 
bloc without accepting all the costs and responsibilities.

   The Salzburg rebuff left May under siege from Brexit-supporting 
Conservatives, who want her to seek a looser relationship based on a bare-bones 
free trade agreement that would leave Britain free to strike new deals around 
the world.

   For now, May is sticking by her plan. After a meeting of the divided Cabinet 
on Monday, May's Downing St. office said hers is "the only plan on the table 
... and she remains confident of securing a deal with the EU."

   German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tuesday that time is tight. An EU 
summit next month is seen as a make-or-break moment for a Brexit deal.

   Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said there were "six to eight weeks of very hard 
work in front of us in which we must take the political decisions."

   "Of course, to a significant extent this also depends on what Britain really 
wants -- the discussion isn't so clear here," she said.


(KA)

 
 
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