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UK PM May under fire as new report warns of Brexit dangers

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Press Trust of India London
British Prime Minister Theresa May today fought back amid a rebellion within her Conservative party ranks, refusing to quit while Brexit negotiations are ongoing after a leaked report warned of dire consequences in the wake of the country leaving the EU.

"I am not a quitter and there's a long-term job to be done. I am doing what I believe is important for the sake of the country," she told reporters at the start of her three-day visit to China.

May has been under mounting pressure from all sides, with some of her party MPs questioning her leadership and the Opposition demanding more details of a leaked economic study which warns of disastrous consequences in the wake of Britain's exit from the European Union (EU).

"We are in government. The next general election is not until 2022. What we're doing now is doing the job that the British people asked the government to do, which is to deliver on Brexit," May said, adding that Britain's vote in favour of Brexit in the June 2016 referendum meant that things will have to change.

She sought to play down the leaked impact assessments drafted by UK civil servants, showing a hit to the UK economy in all end-state scenarios with the EU post-Brexit.

She said, "It would be wrong to describe this as 'the Brexit impact assessment'. There is analysis being done. This is very preliminary.

"What has been seen so far is a selective interpretation of a very preliminary analysis, which ministers have not signed off, have not approved, and which doesn't actually even look at the sort of deal that we want to deliver in terms of the future relationship with the European Union."

The leaked study, published by the 'Buzzfeed' news website on Monday, suggested that in three different scenarios the UK economy would grow more slowly than it would if it stayed in the European Union.

The Labour party had called for the report to be fully released since its existence is now public knowledge and several MPs of the ruling Conservatives also joined ranks with the Opposition demanding that the material be made public.

The issue continued to play out in the House of Commons today, with Downing Street saying the UK government would not "contest the vote" being held by the Opposition Labour party over the issue.

"If the House decides it wants to see the provisional analysis then we will abide by the will of the House," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, hailed the move as a "significant win for democracy".

UK Brexit minister Robin Walker told MPs a copy of the report would be given to Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Commons Brexit Committee, and a confidential reading room will be provided for other MPs and peers to view the material on a "confidential basis".

This approach also came under attack by some MPs, who said it was a "farce" for the document to be released confidentially for only a few hundred people to see when it was likely to end up all over the Internet.

Meanwhile, May announced new education links with China during her visit to boost post-Brexit trade and investment.

She is leading a 50-strong trade delegation of UK-based companies, including Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), and is expected to raise concerns from UK industry about the over-production of steel by China.

The British premier has also refused to endorse China's Belt and Road Initiative, over concerns that the infrastructure projects under the initiative lack financial transparency and rely heavily on Chinese contractors.

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First Published: Jan 31 2018 | 9:25 PM IST

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