United Kingdom premier wants more time to solve Brexit impasse

Mae Love
February 13, 2019

UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent Barclay and her European advisor Olly Robbins to hold official negotiations for the first time since the draft agreement on the UK leaving the bloc was signed off by European leaders in November of a year ago.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the U.K. Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit shows British Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons, in London, on February 12, 2019.

With Brexit just 45 days away, May was due to update the House of Commons on the state of negotiations, a day earlier than planned to give politicians more time to "digest" the remarks before a series of votes on Thursday.

Parliament is to hold a debate on Brexit on February 14, but with just 45 days until Britain leaves the bloc it is not expected to change the course of the exit process, and no date has been set for another vote to approve or reject May's deal.

But many Conservative MPs are anxious that this arrangements suits the EU, so it may stall talks and leave Britain trapped in the customs union indefinitely. I believe we can reach a deal that this house can support.

In excerpts released before her statement, May says: "The talks are at a crucial stage". "We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House has required and deliver Brexit on time".

But the opposition was having none of this.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Wednesday the government is not planning a delay, saying "the prime minister has been very clear that we are committed to leaving on March 29".

British lawmakers rejected May's withdrawal deal last month, with the major sticking point being the Irish backstop - an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

May updated parliament following a series of last-gasp meetings held in Belfast, Brussels, and Dublin despite European Union leaders' insistence that they will not renegotiate the deal they had already struck with her.

The UK is on course to plunge out of the European Union with no new trade agreement in place on March 29.

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The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has called for "clarity and movement" from Britain.

Mrs May has also held talks with Labour, the U.K.'s main opposition party, which says it could support a Brexit deal if the government committed to seeking a close relationship with the European Union after Britain leaves.

Brexiteer MPs in her Conservative Party are particularly unhappy with the so-called backstop provision meant to keep the border with Ireland free-flowing.

The political impasse leaves Britain lurching toward a chaotic no-deal departure that could be costly for businesses and ordinary people in both the United Kingdom and the EU.

"Her scheme is to run the clock down so people are more likely to accept her deal", Mr Simpson said.

In an appearance on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Barclay declined to comment on Robbins's comments, which he said were overheard in a "noisy bar", but added that an extension was not the government's plan and would not only be a decision for the United Kingdom government.

House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who is in charge of the parliamentary timetable, denied that the government was wasting time.

"While we will follow normal procedure if we can, where there is insufficient time remaining. we will make provision in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, with parliament's consent, to ensure that we are able to ratify on time to guarantee our exit in an orderly way", May said.

"It is a negotiation. She is playing for time and playing with people's jobs, our economic security and the future of our industry".

The two countries have signed a post-Brexit trade deal that would cover most of the existing agreements that govern relations with the EU.

Figures released this week showed the British economy barely expanding at the end of past year, as business investment, manufacturing output and construction all declined.

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