British High Commission on Brexit: “it’s really important we leave with some sort of deal”
The British High Commissioner to New Zealand and Samoa has while the Brexit debate may seem “messy and noisy,” Parliament is making efforts to secure a deal before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on the 29th of March.
Yesterday, the UK Members of Parliament voted 391 to 242 against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, for a second time after rejecting it in January too.
High Commissioner Laura Clarke spoke to Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report program yesterday soon after the vote, and said there is a clear majority wanting an orderly exit from the EU.
“The question this week was whether MPs were confident that the backstop would not be applied indefinitely to the UK and it looks like MPs have rejected this deal and the question then is what happens next,” Ms Clarke said.
“I think what is clear is that there is a majority in parliament for leaving in an orderly way, so leaving with a deal, and it’s also clear that there is no appetite for a no deal Brexit.”
The two options before Parliament are to continue negotiating a deal before the 29th of March, or to request an extension of Article 50, the legal mechanism which can take the UK out of the EU .
“The legislation is very clear, there is not a middle ground, you need to have a deal agreed with the UK and the EU,” Ms Clarke explained.
“My feeling is that all efforts will be made to avoid a no deal Brexit, a cliff edge Brexit, that there will be flexibility, because ultimately it is in everyone’s interest to find a way through and not have a no deal Brexit.
“But at this stage you can’t rule it out cause the clock is ticking.”
Ms Clarke said she feels the request for an extension is likely to happen, but two more votes need to happen before that would happen.
The first vote is on whether to go ahead with a no-deal Brexit, and if not, a second vote would be held on requesting the extension.
A decision on how to leave the European Union is a “sovereignty exercise,” Ms Clarke explained.
“What I would say is this often looks quite messy and noisy in Parliament, and I think that’s because we’re doing very big constitutional changes here, these are very big questions.
“The Brexit vote is really about sovereignty, it’s about the UK taking back control of its immigration policy, its trade policy, and being able to do bilateral trade deals with countries like New Zealand and it’s really a sovereignty exercise but it is big constitutional change, so it often looks like messy.”
The UK and New Zealand remain committed to a bilateral free trade agreement post-Brexit, Ms Clarke said.
BBC reports Prime Minister Theresa May will not return to Brussels to ask for different concessions, because “as she told MP’s, she still thinks her deal is the best and only one on offer.”