UK PM asks lawmakers for more time on Brexit
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May urged restive lawmakers Tuesday to hold their nerve and give her more time to rework a divorce agreement with the European Union, heightening concerns that Brexit uncertainty will continue right up to the edge of the U.K.’s departure on March 29.
With Britain’s EU exit just 45 days away, May tried to avert a rebellion when Parliament votes again Thursday on Brexit by promising another series of votes two weeks later.
Some lawmakers want to use Thursday’s votes to impose conditions on May’s Conservative government in an attempt to rule out a cliff-edge “no deal” Brexit that would see Britain crash out of the EU without a framework for smooth future relations.
May sought to buy time, telling lawmakers they would get another chance to alter her course on February 27 if she had not secured changes to the Brexit deal by then.
May signalled she might delay Parliament’s vote on whether to approve the divorce deal even further, potentially holding it after a March 21-22 EU summit — just days before Britain is due to leave the bloc.
She would not rule that out when questioned by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“We must agree a deal that this House can support and that is what I am working to achieve,” she told the House of Commons.
“The talks are at a crucial stage,” May added. “We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time.”
The opposition was having none of this.
“Our country is facing the biggest crisis in a generation and yet the prime minister continues to recklessly run down the clock,” said Corbyn.
Parliament last month rejected May’s Brexit deal with the EU, in part over a contentious plan to keep a seamless border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
The measure, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU and removes the need for checks along the border until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.
The free flow of people and goods across the frontier has been an important measure upholding Northern Ireland’s peace deal.