British MPs reject Brexit deal for third time
London, Mar 29: British MPs have rejected for a third time Prime Minister Theresa May's deal for leaving the EU, voting against the text negotiated with European leaders by 344 votes to 286.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told AFP ahead of parliament's third vote on May's twice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement with the other 27 EU nations that uncertainty associated with a Brexit extension was better than May's way forward.
"My message to MPs from all parties is to vote against this deal," Khan said after meeting a group of EU nationals at a university in east London. "I appreciate that may lead to a bit more uncertainty, but I'd rather have a short period of uncertainty with a good future." Khan has focused his energy in the past year on preparing London's massive financial district for the consequences of a potentially abrupt and chaotic no-deal ending to Britain's 46-year involvement in the European project.
He admitted that no-one entirely knew -- or was fully ready -- for the eventuality of the sides splitting apart without any safety mechanisms in place to cushion the blow. The Bank of England warned in November that the UK economy could shrink by eight per cent within months of a messy divorce.
Britain must present the EU with an alternative proposal by April 12 if May's deeply unpopular deal is rejected for a third time. The Withdrawal Agreement's approval on Friday would give the UK parliament until May 22 to get all the accompanying legislation passed. Failure to do so could still theoretically result in the sides breaking up without a deal.
Khan is a member of the opposition Labour party who backs calls for May to put up any pact approved by parliament up for confirmation in a national vote that would also include the option of staying in the bloc.
"Rather than a group of MPs deciding our future, who by the way have changed their mind, the British public should be allowed a say," Khan said. "MPs get not just one say, but a second say and now a third say, yet the British public are not allowed a final say on whether we accept the deal negotiated by the government with the option of staying in the European Union." He called May "incompetent" and the government's handling of the entire process "shambolic".
"I think we can all agree that Brexit has been a complete and utter mess." He added that the European leaders he has been in talks with since Britons voted to leave in 2016 would still like to see voters change their minds and reverse Brexit in the months to come.
"When I speak to leaders from across Europe, whether it's in France, whether it's in Germany, whether it's in Brussels, what is clear to me is that nobody want to punish us," said the London mayor. "Everybody is heartbroken we are leaving."
(with PTI inputs)