March 23, 2019
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European Union

British lawmakers set to vote on no-deal Brexit

London, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- British lawmakers are expected to vote Wednesday against leaving the European Union without agreeing terms for Britain's withdrawal, a decision likely to delay the country's planned departure later this month, said a Dow Jones Newswires report supplied to EFE.

The UK Parliament is due to vote later Wednesday on a government motion opposing a so-called "no-deal" exit on Mar. 29, the date that Britain is due to separate from the EU.

The vote seeks to avoid the severe disruptions that a disorderly exit from the EU would cause to the British economy.

The possibility of a disorderly split grew after British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to secure parliamentary approval Tuesday on a bill that would lay out essential economic and judicial terms for an orderly separation from the UK's biggest trading partner.

Following Tuesday's resounding loss, May promised to allow lawmakers to vote on a motion that would take a no-deal separation off the table. Lawmakers are also expected to consider an amendment that would rule out a no-deal exit at any time.

However, May's motion would not entirely eliminate such an eventuality. It would instead postpone it for a few months, creating, in the view of her critics, more uncertainty for business.

Meanwhile, emphasizing that the prospect of a no-deal exit remains on the table, the government unveiled the tariffs the UK would apply temporarily to all imported goods in case of a sudden break from the EU.

In a proposal aimed at easing the pain for consumers, the UK trade ministry on Wednesday said it would eliminate tariffs on almost 90 percent of goods imported into the UK by value. But it also proposed tariffs protecting sensitive British industries, including car and ceramics manufacturers and meat producers. Some textile imports would also face tariffs.

Currently, all goods from the EU enter the UK tariff-free, while goods from outside the EU carry a range of tariffs determined by the bloc.

The UK also said that in a no-deal scenario, it would not impose any checks or duties on goods imported into Northern Ireland, part of the UK, over the politically sensitive border from the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state.

Treasury chief Philip Hammond, a close ally of May, highlighted the potential economic benefits of a smooth and orderly exit in a regular budget update to Parliament on Wednesday, saying the UK would experience a "deal dividend" that would spur growth and boost tax receipts.

"Last night's vote leaves a cloud of uncertainty hanging over our economy. And our most urgent task in this House is to lift that uncertainty," he said.

The official forecast for growth in 2019 was cut to 1.2 percent, from 1.6 percent in November, reflecting uncertainty over Brexit and a weaker outlook globally, added the Dow Jones report.

If lawmakers rule out a disorderly divorce, as expected, they will then vote Thursday on a further proposal to delay Britain's scheduled exit date beyond Mar. 29. That will require the unanimous approval of the other 27 EU governments.

Other member states are likely to agree to an extension during a summit in Brussels that starts next Thursday. However, it isn't clear what length of extension they would prefer and whether conditions would be imposed.

May backs a short delay, perhaps only until late May, to keep the pressure on lawmakers in her own Conservative Party and salvage her painstakingly negotiated divorce bill. In such a case, the country could confront a fresh no-deal scenario at the end of the extension.

May's pro-EU political opponents, meantime, seek a longer delay. That could allow Parliament to force her into negotiating much closer ties to the bloc than the government wants, or provide the opportunity for a second referendum over the deal.

Lawmakers' procrastination is creating growing frustration among voters and businesses. "It's time for Parliament to stop this circus," Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, an employers' group, said Tuesday.

By Jason Douglas and Stephen Fidler

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