Theresa May seeks more time from MPs to hold Brexit talks

British PM also wants lawmakers from all parties to back the deal she is aiming to strike with the EU

Published Tue, Feb 12, 2019 · 09:50 PM


BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May asked MPs on Tuesday to give her more time for talks with the European Union (EU) on renegotiating the Brexit deal, just weeks before the scheduled March 29 departure date.

"Having secured an agreement with the EU for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process," Mrs May said, promising a further series of parliamentary votes on Brexit on Feb 27 if the government fails to do so by then.

Mrs May also said she wanted lawmakers from all parties to back the Brexit deal she is aiming to strike, citing the need to pass further legislation to prepare for Britain's exit from the EU.

"It is actually, I think, in the interests of this Parliament, and in the interests of taking legislation through, that we see a strong vote from across the whole house," the British leader told Parliament.

She said the government will seek to speed up the ratification of its Brexit deal with the EU if time gets too tight to pass legislation before Britain's exit day.

Mrs May told ministers earlier on Tuesday that Parliament, which last month roundly rejected her Brexit deal, would not vote on a revised deal this week. Media have reported a fresh vote is not expected until late February at the earliest.

Parliamentary experts have said that even if Mrs May succeeds in getting a deal approved by lawmakers, Britain may need to request an extension to the Article 50 exit negotiation period in order to approve necessary legislation.

After it has voted to support her deal, Parliament must also pass a law - the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - formally ratifying the agreement.

Asked by a lawmaker whether an extension was now inevitable due to a legal requirement that the government lay a treaty before Parliament 21 sitting days before it can be ratified, Mrs May said the government may fast track that process.

"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 enable to ratify on time to guarantee our exit in an orderly way," Mrs May said.

She told the House of Commons the UK's demand for a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement are "reasonable" given that neither side wants to enter into the Irish backstop in the first place.

She said she's taken Parliament's "unequivocal" message to her EU counterparts that it needs "legally binding" changes to show the provision is temporary.

The premier said she continues to explore the so-called Malthouse proposal - a proposal by pro-EU and pro-Brexit wings of her party to find a technological solution to the Irish border, and that the other two possible changes would be to add an exit clause or an end date to the backstop. "We need some time to complete that process," Mrs May added.

She rejected the opposition Labour party's suggestion that the UK should enter into a customs union with the EU after Brexit, pointing out that the House of Commons has already voted against the option.

"Membership of the customs union would be a less-desirable outcome than that which is provided in the political declaration" of the deal already reached, Mrs May said.

That deal "would provide for an independent trade policy for the UK that would allow us to strike our own trade deals around the world."

The only way to stop a no-deal Brexit is to reach a deal that Parliament can support, Mrs May added. "Every time somebody votes against a deal, the risk of no-deal increases," she told the Commons. AFP, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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