UK’s May asks MPs for more time for further Brexit talks


LONDON • UK Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May (picture) asked MPs yesterday to give her more time to try and revive her Brexit deal with the European Union (EU) in what the Opposition said was a ploy to “run down the clock”.

May updated Parliament following meetings in Belfast, Brussels and Dublin, despite EU leaders’ insistence that they will not renegotiate the deal they had already struck with her.

Deal or no deal, Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 and a disorderly exit could cause chaos.

“The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this house requires and deliver Brexit on time,” May told lawmakers.

“Having secured an agreement with the EU for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process.”

The announcement was seen by political commentators as an attempt to defuse any parliamentary rebellion in a series of votes on May’s Brexit strategy to be held tomorrow.

May has promised that Parliament would have another chance to vote, on Feb 27, on what to do if no agreement is reached. MPs last month overwhelmingly rejected the deal struck between May and Brussels for Britain’s exit from the EU.

Pro-Brexit MPs in May’s Conservative Party are unhappy particularly with a so-called backstop provision intended to keep the border with Ireland free-flowing.

Some fear it could leave Britain trapped in EU trade rules indefinitely with no withdrawal mechanism.

Main Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had come to Parliament yesterday with “excuses and delays” and accused her of trying to “play chicken with people’s livelihoods”.

“It appears the PM has just one real tactic: To run down the clock hoping members of this house are blackmailed into supporting a deeply flawed deal,” he said. “This is an irresponsible act. She’s playing for time and playing with people’s jobs.”

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said the onus was on the EU to show flexibility.

“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 told BBC radio.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and David Lidington, May’s de facto deputy, met members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday, while British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in Paris as part of a diplomatic offensive. — AFP