May to promise new Brexit debate in push for more negotiating time

Gladys Abbott
February 12, 2019

Britain's prime minister appears to have ruled out incorporating a key idea from the leader of the opposition Labour Party into her reworked Brexit withdrawal deal, according to Rory Stewart, the nation's prisons minister.

In an exclusive interview with the Press Association, the Commons Leader insisted she would stay in the Cabinet to help Mrs May deliver Brexit and denied that the PM was softening her stance over a customs union in a letter to Mr Corbyn.

Anna McMorrin MP, from the People's Vote campaign, said: "Another day has gone by and another promise on Brexit is casually being broken".

Mr Johnson, who led the official Vote Leave campaign in the referendum, warned the Prime Minister against trying to do a deal with Labour to get her agreement through.

And instead of a "meaningful" vote, ministers could be given another series of non-binding votes on possible Brexit alternatives by February 27 with the final vote on whether to approve or reject the deal delayed until the following month.

May and her government have repeatedly said membership of a customs union would prevent it having an independent trade policy - something they have promoted as one of the main economic benefits of leaving the EU.

A senior minister, James Brokenshire, has suggested there will be no such vote until March, which would leave less than 29 days until Brexit.

Mrs May sparked the furore by penning a letter to Mr Corbyn (pictured inset bottom) saying his call for the United Kingdom to stay in a customs union would hamper free trade deals - but stopped short of ruling it out.

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"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".

The prime minister is aiming to allay lawmaker concern that, unless they vote to take control of the process and order her to seek an extension of European Union negotiations, they will have lost their chance to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

'Non-EU members do not have a say in EU trade policy so to pretend that you could do so is a risky delusion, ' he said.

Mr Johnson said Mrs May's priority should be to secure a time limit on the backstop - meant to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland - before the next election scheduled for June 2022.

European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that the bloc would agree to tweak the political declaration on EU-UK ties after Brexit that forms part of the package to reflect a plan for a closer future relationship that could obviate the need for the contentious backstop.

"I think it must be pretty obvious that if you are going to have a time limit to the backstop, and I think that would be a very good thing, it's got to fall before the next election".

"I don't think that would be good enough", he said.

Mrs May wants the two parties to discuss how "alternative arrangements" to the Irish backstop - a commitment to avoid a hard border - could work.

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