UK's May Appeals to Public on Brexit 11/16 06:37
LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May appealed directly to
voters to back her Brexit plan Friday as she braced for a potential leadership
challenge from rivals within her party.
May answered questions from callers on a radio phone-in, the day after she
vowed to stay in office and see through Britain's exit from the European Union.
It was not an easy ride. One caller said May should resign and let a more
staunchly pro-Brexit politician take over; another compared her to Neville
Chamberlain, the 1930s prime minister who vainly tried to appease Nazi Germany
to avoid a war.
May stood by her plan.
"For a lot of people who voted 'leave,' what they wanted to do was make sure
that decisions on things like who can come into this country would be taken by
us here in the U.K., and not by Brussels, and that's exactly what the deal I've
negotiated delivers," she said.
May is battling to save her Brexit plan, and her job, after the draft
withdrawal agreement between Britain and the EU sparked fierce opposition from
euroskeptic politicians in her Conservative Party. They say the agreement,
which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave
Britain a vassal state, bound to EU rules it has no say in making.
Several Conservative lawmakers are pushing for a no-confidence vote, hoping
to reach a threshold of 48 to trigger a challenge. If May lost her job as party
leader, she would also lose her position as prime minister.
Sky News reported Friday that all Conservative whips had been summoned to
London, amid rumors that 48 letters had been submitted.
May got one piece of good news, when Environment Secretary Michael Gove
decided not to follow two Cabinet colleagues and quit over the divorce deal.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey
quit Thursday, saying they could not support the agreement. Like them, Gove was
a strong supporter of the "leave" campaign in Britain's 2016 EU membership
Gove said Friday that he "absolutely" had confidence in May, adding that he
would work with government colleagues to achieve "the best future for Britain."
But he did not answer when asked if he supported May's Brexit deal.
A defiant May vowed Thursday to "see this through," and said abandoning her
Brexit plan, with Britain's exit just over four months away on March 29, would
plunge the country into "deep and grave uncertainty.
The political turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound. On
Friday it recouped some gains, trading 0.4 percent higher at $1.2821, partly on
relief that Gove didn't join the others in quitting the government.
But investors and businesses remain worried about the prospect of Britain
crashing out of the EU in March without a deal. That could see tariffs on
British exports, border checks, restrictions on travelers and workers and
interruption to the supply of goods.
"The markets are looking for a deal," said Michael Baker, a financial
analyst at ETX Capital. "They're looking for some sort of agreement, some sort
of orderly withdrawal for the U.K. to come out of the European Union."
Simon Kempton of police officers' union the Police Federation said a
"no-deal" Brexit could spark protests, and "it's a real concern that those
protests might escalate into disorder."
"It's 2018. It's the year that people dial (emergency number) 999 because
KFC ran out of chicken," he told Sky News. "If that will happen, imagine what
will happen if we start seeing food or medical supply shortages."
EU leaders, who have called a Nov. 25 summit in Brussels to sign off on the
draft agreement, were doing their best to refrain from commenting on Britain's
But French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday called some British
politicians "liars" who fooled voters into thinking leaving the EU would be
easy and in their interests.
"The truth is that Brexit could end with a nightmare," he said at a
conference in Paris on reforming the global trade system.