UK Prime Minister Theresa May wants more time to renegotiate her Brexit deal with the European Union and in return is promising lawmakers a further chance to take control of the process before the clock runs out, according to an official with knowledge of her plans.
With a vote due February 14 and no prospect of agreement, May will ask Parliament this week to reaffirm its desire to remove the contentious Irish backstop clause from current deal. If she hasn’t brought a new deal to Parliament by February 27, she’ll say there will then be another opportunity to vote, according to the official, who declined to be identified.
The prime minister is seeking to avoid a situation where members of parliament fear that, unless they vote to take control of the process and order her to seek an extension of EU negotiations, they will have lost their chance to avoid Britain leaving without a deal.
A similar promise at the end of January thwarted a cross-party attempt to take over the timetable, led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative Nick Boles. It is that promise that led to this week’s vote.
The wording of the motion that May lays out on Thursday, asking Parliament to back her negotiation, will be closely read. Although Parliament asked for the backstop to be removed, May has said since that the backstop will remain, and that Parliament merely asked for it to be altered.
Chief Secretary to the UK Treasury Liz Truss tells Sky there won’t be any need to extend Article 50—which sets the deadline for leaving — because lawmakers will reach an agreement in time.
“In any negotiations, any piece of work, as the deadline approaches, minds get focused and a deal gets done. Extending the deadline, that doesn’t create any new information, all that does is delay things so that would be a very bad idea,” she said.
She also added that the UK is prepared to leave without a deal, should it be “absolutely necessary.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said leaving the EU without a deal could be devastating for the Northern Ireland peace process and that a second referendum on Brexit might still happen.
“It would be economically very, very dangerous for Britain, and for the peace process in Ireland it would potentially be devastating,” he said in a Sky News interview. “A no-deal Brexit means a really hard border between north and south in Ireland, it’s contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it will cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom.”