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Brexit statement in UK Parliament likely on Thursday

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Anti-EU demostrators, in favour of a "hard" Brexit, demonstrating outside the entrance to Downing Street in London on Wednesday.

London

THE speaker of Britain's Parliament said he had been told to expect a government statement on Brexit to be delivered on Thursday, but he was open to it happening sooner.

"I had been given to understand there would be a statement on this matter, in all likelihood tomorrow," speaker John Bercow said in response to a question from a lawmaker, who asked if such a statement could be held on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to convince senior ministers to accept a draft European Union (EU) divorce deal that opponents say threatens both her government and the unity of the United Kingdom.

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Earlier during question time in parliament, Mrs May said the draft Brexit deal struck by British and EU negotiators delivered on the result of the 2016 referendum.

"What we have been negotiating is a deal that does deliver on the vote of the British people," Mrs May told rowdy MPs after a barrage of criticism from hardliners in her own Conservative Party who said the agreement included unacceptable compromises.

In the referendum, 52 per cent voted for Britain to leave the EU after four decades of membership. The government has said Britain will also leave the European single market and customs union. Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.

Mrs May defended her agreement in front of MPs saying it would guarantee an end to unlimited immigration from the EU and would allow Britain to set its own trade policy. She said the agreement included a backstop to avoid a hard border in Ireland but added that this would be a temporary "insurance policy" if no future relationship is agreed.

"We want to bring the future relationship into place at the end of December 2020," she added.

But Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said the agreement "breaches the prime minister's own red lines" and said negotiations with Brussels had been "shambolic".

"This government spent two years negotiating a bad deal that will leave the country in an indefinite half-way house," he noted. REUTERS, AFP