You are here

May 'determined' to meet March 29 deadline for UK to leave EU

However, ministers in British Prime Minister's cabinet have suggested a delay could be needed


UK PRIME Minister Theresa May insists she's "determined" to deliver Brexit "on time", on March 29, despite ministers in her own Cabinet suggesting a delay could be needed.

She promised to return to Brussels with renewed commitment and "new ideas" to deliver a deal.

Mrs May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph, saying even Labour's Jeremy Corbyn agrees the Brexit deal needs changes to the contentious Irish border backstop.

Downing Street denied the Conservatives are planning for a June 6 election, after a report in the Mail on Sunday suggests preparations are underway.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said it was "inevitable" that the Brexit negotiations will go to the last minute - and that means Britain can't back down on its threat to leave with no deal.

"I'm afraid it's inevitable that in these types of negotiations things do get decided close to the last minute - that's when the maximum political pressure is," Ms Truss told BBC Radio 5 Live.

The "threat of no deal on both sides" is bringing Parliament closer to a consensus and will also "get the EU on board," she said. "I think we are seeing signs of the EU's position softening."

But even if there is no deal, truck movements, data exchange and financial services transactions will continue, Ms Truss said, adding that predictions of "Armageddon scenarios" are exaggerated.

UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said EU leaders are being "irresponsible" to rule out even talking about potential changes to the withdrawal agreement - because a no-deal Brexit would hit the European and British economies.

"Are they really saying they would rather not negotiate and end up in a no-deal position?" Mr Fox told the "Sophy Ridge on Sunday" show on Sky News. "For the EU to say, we're not going to even discuss . . . it seems to me quite irresponsible."

He added that Ireland will pay a price by refusing to engage in negotiations: namely a no-deal Brexit and a hard border.

A staunch Brexit supporter, Mr Fox reiterated his opposition to staying in a customs union with the EU when asked if he would accept this as the price for getting a deal through Parliament.

He wouldn't say whether he could quit the Cabinet in protest, if a customs union becomes official policy.

He also repeated his earlier suggestion that extra time beyond the March 29 deadline could be needed to implement a deal, but he warned the EU is unlikely to agree to an open-ended delay to Brexit.

Mrs May's statement that she is determined to deliver Brexit on March 29 is an important line because in recent days a succession of senior ministers raised the prospect that Brexit Day could be delayed.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested extra time might be required to get all the necessary laws through Parliament before the UK exits the bloc.

Mrs May has cancelled Parliament's February vacation to make more time available for action on bills. So far, she says that should be enough and is sticking to next month's withdrawal deadline. BLOOMBERG