May seeks time from MPs for Brexit talks

May seeks time from MPs for Brexit talks
Highlights

The British government is seeking to win more time to secure EU concessions on Brexit that could pass parliament and avert a chaotic split from the bloc on March 29

London:The British government is seeking to win more time to secure EU concessions on Brexit that could pass parliament and avert a chaotic split from the bloc on March 29.

Businesses and governments are on edge because Britain is just weeks away from its scheduled departure from the European project after 46 years and still has no firm arrangements in place.

The UK parliament last month roundly rejected a Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had sealed with the remaining 27 EU leaders.

MPs are set to vote again on Britain's Brexit options on February 14. But a member of May's cabinet pledged on Sunday to give parliament a further ballot two weeks later – a measure meant to give the premier more time for talks with the EU.

Her meetings in Brussels on Thursday made no breakthrough and fears of a “no-deal” scenario that gridlocks trade are running high.

May’s housing minister James Brokenshire insisted on Monday that the government had a clear strategy and timeline aimed at getting an agreement that Britain's splintered parliament can pass.

“What gives certainty is a deal, and that's why we want to see people getting behind us, getting behind this process that we now have,” Brokenshire told the BBC. He pledged to give parliament a fresh vote on Britain's options by February 27 if May does not come back with new concessions before then. In the vote this week lawmakers are set to have their say on amendments that could limit May's options and give parliament a broader say over the Brexit process.

Brokenshire's promise of another vote two weeks later is designed to discourage lawmakers from binding the government's hands this week.

It is also meant to postpone a revolt by cabinet ministers who want to take a no-deal Brexit off the table for good.

The opposition Labour party has denounced May's strategy as time-wasting. “We shouldn't be put in a position where the clock is run down and the prime minister says it's either my deal or even worse,” Labour's Brexit pointman Keir Starmer told The Sunday Times.

In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, May opposed his party's appeal for the country to remain in a customs union with Brussels.

But in efforts to build cross-party support for a deal, she offered flexibility on Corbyn's calls to keep up with EU measures to protect the workers' rights, asking for further talks with Labour “as soon as possible”.

  • The UK Parliament last month roundly rejected a Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had sealed with the remaining 27 EU leaders.
  • MPs are set to vote again on Britain's Brexit options on February 14.
  • The British premier is set to meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker again before the end of month.
  • In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dated Sunday, the Prime Minister opposed his party’s appeal for the country to remain in a customs union with Brussels.
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