If British Prime Minister Theresa May hoped a televised address late on Wednesday would help persuade wavering lawmakers to support her Brexit deal, it appears to have backfired, instead alienating the very people she needs to win over.
On Thursday, lawmakers lined up to attack the statement in which May blamed parliament for the need to seek a delay to Britain’s March 29 European Union exit. They branded it dangerous, reckless, toxic and irresponsible.
May’s Brexit deal has twice been crushed by parliament, first in January in the largest government defeat in modern history and again this month by a smaller, yet still sizeable, margin. She needs to win over at least 75 lawmakers to get it through.
“The Prime Minister’s statement was disgraceful,” said opposition Labour lawmaker Lisa Nandy, who represents a Brexit-supporting area. “Pitting parliament against the people in the current environment is dangerous and reckless,” she added on Twitter. “She’s attacking the MPs (Members of Parliament) whose votes she needs. It will have cost her support.”
Nandy had put forward a proposal which backed May’s deal on the condition parliament has a greater say in the next phase of Brexit talks, but told ITV: “I will not support a government that takes such a dangerous, reckless approach to democracy.”
After writing to the EU on Wednesday to request a three-month delay to Brexit, May told Britons parliament had done “everything possible to avoid making a choice”.
“Of this I am absolutely sure: you the public have had enough. You are tired of the infighting. You are tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows,” she said in the televised statement from her Downing Street office.
“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side. It is now time for MPs to decide.”
May’s statement succeeded in uniting both pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers – against her.
“If you are trying to persuade numbers of MPs to back a proposition, you don’t do that by insulting them,” pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Mark Francois told Sky News.
Conservative Sam Gyimah, who quit as a government minister over the Brexit deal and now supports a second referendum, said May resorting to a “blame game” was “all part of her strategy to run down the clock and rule out other options. Toxic.”