British PM asks for new Brexit delay to approve deal - Kogonuso

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Apr 2, 2019

British PM asks for new Brexit delay to approve deal


LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday (Apr 2) she would ask the EU to again delay Brexit to avoid Britain crashing out of the bloc next week, signalling she could accept a closer relationship with Europe to break months of political deadlock.

After more than seven hours of talks with her ministers, May said she would request a delay that was "as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal" through the British parliament.

In a move likely to enrage the Brexit-supporting wing of her Conservative party, she also offered to work with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who favours closer ties with the European Union.

"This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands. And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest," May said in a televised address.

Brussels has set Britain an Apr 12 deadline to either pass the divorce deal it agreed with May four months ago, settle on an alternative, or depart the EU without an agreement.

In reality, the deadline is even closer as the EU has called an emergency leaders summit for Apr 10.

EU president Donald Tusk responded cautiously to May's statement, saying: "Even if, after today, we don't know what the end result will be, let us be patient."

BREAK THE LOGJAM

Britain voted by 52 to 48 per cent to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, but the exit process has only exacerbated divisions among the public and politicians, including May's cabinet.

Her statement follows weeks of turmoil, in which MPs rejected her divorce deal three times, but were unable to come up with their own plan.

"Today I am taking action to break the logjam," she said.

She noted calls in her own party for Britain to simply end its 46-year-old membership of the bloc without any agreement with the EU, but she said that "leaving with a deal is the best solution".

May said she believed her existing plan was still necessary for an orderly Brexit, but offered to talk to Labour about a new plan for future trade ties.

Corbyn has called for a new customs union with the EU and access to the bloc's single market, two things that until now, May has strongly opposed.

If they could agree on a plan that MPs supported, the prime minister said she hoped to take it to the Brussels summit next week.

If not, she promised to allow MPs to direct what she does, expressing hope that Britain could still leave with a deal before May 22, so it did not have to take part in European Parliament elections.

The political chaos has already forced May to ask the EU to postpone the original Brexit date of Mar 29, but European leaders have warned they will not delay Brexit indefinitely.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that while he was "open" to a lengthy delay on certain conditions, it was "neither a certainty nor automatic".

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned that the other 27 EU nations were prepared for a "no deal" situation, and "it becomes day after day more likely".

FUTURE RELATIONSHIP

The EU has repeatedly refused to renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal it agreed with May last November after almost two years of negotiations but has said it could revise the accompanying political declaration on future relations.
Image used on the post
The deal aims to smooth the divorce with arrangements for Britain's financial settlement, the rights of expatriate citizens, and the Irish border.

It also sets up a transition period until December 2021 to agree new trade terms - but these are only loosely outlined in an accompanying political declaration, which the EU is open to changing.

"What we need to focus on is our future relationship with the EU," May said of her talks with Corbyn.

MPs have already sought to take control of the process by holding two rounds of votes on possible alternative.

Plans for a new EU customs union was the most popular option in Monday night's vote, although it fell just short of a majority

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