Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

May to ask MPs for more time on Brexit talks

Published 11:49 pm | February 12, 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday will plead with MPs to give her more time for talks with EU officials on her
Brexit deal, telling them they must hold their nerve.

May is set to update parliament on her latest meetings in Brussels and
Dublin aimed at securing a divorce agreement with the EU, with Britain due to
leave the bloc on March 29.

“The talks are at a crucial stage,” May will say, according to extracts
from her statement to parliament released in advance by her Downing Street

MPs last month overwhelmingly rejected the deal struck between May and
Brussels and the British premier has since been attempting to secure changes
that would satisfy parliament’s lower House of Commons.

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

Some fear it could leave Britain trapped in the European Union’s trade
rules with no unilateral way out — but would back a deal if the backstop was

“We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this house has
required and deliver Brexit on time,” May is due to tell MPs.

“By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and
enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the
role of parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a
deal that this house can support.”

May on Tuesday informed her cabinet about progress in the talks, ahead of
her statement to parliament.

“The PM said that in Brussels last week she had set out the need for
legally-binding changes to the backstop and had outlined the ways we thought
this could be achieved: alternative arrangements, a time-limit or a
unilateral exit mechanism,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said after the
cabinet meeting.

“These discussions with the EU will need a little more time to conclude,”
she added.

The spokeswoman said May would promise MPs they could hold a series of
votes by February 27 in an attempt to influence her Brexit strategy if
lawmakers have not passed a deal by then.

– Plea for time –

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said on BBC radio that May was not simply
“running down the clock” until March 29.

“It would be an extraordinary outcome if the thing that the backstop is
seeking to avoid, which is a hard border in Northern Ireland, if the EU were
so determined to be completely intransigent about it that they actually incur
the very thing that they’re seeking to avoid by pushing the UK into a
position where we leave without a deal,” she said.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and David Lidington, May’s de facto
deputy, are in Strasbourg meeting members of the European Parliament, while
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is in Paris as part of a diplomatic

Hunt said he had “open and thoughtful discussions” with French Foreign
Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“Both sides want a Brexit deal that supports ongoing friendship between
UK/EU/France so patience and goodwill on backstop now the critical
ingredient,” he tweeted.

– Pressure on opposition –

Meanwhile students supporting a second referendum urged the main
opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “get off the fence” on Brexit, in a
stunt in his north London constituency.

Many of Labour’s younger, newer supporters who propelled the veteran
socialist to the party leadership want to stay in the EU — but many of the
seats Labour holds in parliament are in hotbeds of older Brexit voters.

“A lot of people have noticed the complete lack of opposition on this. We
can’t paint ourselves as ready for power if we aren’t prepared to take a
decision,” said Kira Millana Lewis, an 18-year-old student and Labour member.

“We believed in him because we believed he would offer us a brighter
future. That isn’t possible outside of the European Union.”

National Union of Students leader Shakira Martin, 30, added: “He’s let down young people… There’s a time when you’ve got to get off the fence before it breaks.”


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