Theresa May has suggested she could try to take her EU Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament before it has been formally approved by the other 27 member states.
Amid growing pressure to delay Brexit with just 32 days left on the clock, the Prime Minister insisted it is “within our grasp” for Britain to leave the EU with a deal on March 29.
European Council president Donald Tusk revealed that he had discussed the legal and procedural process for extending the two-year Article 50 withdrawal negotiations with Mrs May when he met her on Sunday in Egypt.
Despite also facing pressure from pro-Europe Tories for a delay, the Prime Minister insisted in a press conference at the end of a summit of EU and Arab nations that she was sticking to her timetable.
“It’s within our grasp to leave with a deal on March 29 and that’s where all of my energies are going to be focused,” she said.
Challenged over whether MPs would be able to vote on any additional assurances she secures from Brussels before they have been formally signed off by the EU27, Mrs May told reporters: “It is possible to do it either way.”
Theresa May has insisted that it is “within our grasp” for Britain to leave the EU with a deal on March 29, as she resisted pressure for an extension to the two-year negotiation process.
European Council president Donald Tusk revealed that he had discussed the legal and procedural process for extending withdrawal talks under Article 50 with the British Prime Minister when he met her on Sunday in Egypt.
Mr Tusk said that he believes delaying the UK’s withdrawal beyond March 29 is now a “rational solution”, warning that the only alternative, if MPs cannot agree a deal, is “a chaotic Brexit”.
Despite facing pressure from pro-Europe Tories for delay, the Prime Minister said: “It’s within our grasp to leave with a deal on March 29 and that’s where all of my energies are going to be focused.”
Speaking at a press conference at the end of the EU/League of Arab States summit in Sharm el Sheikh, she dismissed calls for delay.
“An extension to Article 50, a delay in this process, doesn’t deliver a decision in Parliament, it doesn’t deliver a deal,” she said.
“All it does is precisely what the word ‘delay’ says.
“Any extension of Article 50 isn’t addressing the issues.
“We have it within our grasp.
“I’ve had a real sense from the meetings I’ve had here and the conversations I’ve had in recent days that we can achieve that deal.”
- Press Association
Theresa May has insisted to EU leaders that she is against extending Article 50 to allow more time for talks on a withdrawal deal.
Despite facing pressure from pro-Europe Tories on the issue, the Prime Minister told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she still believes an agreement can be sorted out by the scheduled exit date of March 29.
The issue of extending Article 50, which would keep the UK in the EU beyond the planned withdrawal date, came up in a meeting between the two leaders on the fringes of the EU-League of Arab States summit they are both attending in Egypt.
A senior UK Government official said Article 50 was mentioned “briefly” in the 45-minute talks and the PM remained with the view that such a move would only “delay decisions”.
The official added: “They did discuss Brexit, they discussed UK Parliament, things that have been happening in UK Parliament, things that are happening this week.”
Mrs May is also holding talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish premier Leo Varadkar on Monday.
The meetings come after the PM admitted she will not get a Brexit deal in time for MPs to hold a “Meaningful Vote” this week.
Mrs May said she will put her deal to Parliament by March 12 at the latest – just 17 days before Britain is due to leave the EU.
The PM now faces the prospect of another potentially damaging Commons revolt on Wednesday when MPs are expected to mount a fresh attempt to block a no-deal break and extend Article 50.
Theresa May is to hold further meetings with EU leaders after admitting she will not get a Brexit deal in time for MPs to hold a “meaningful vote” this week.
The British Prime Minister, attending an EU-League of Arab States summit in Egypt, has said she will put her deal to Parliament by March 12 at the latest – just 17 days before Britain is due to leave the EU.
The latest delay was greeted with anger by opposition parties who accused her of another attempt to “run down the clock” to force MPs to back her Withdrawal Agreement.
And there was dismay among businesses over the continuing uncertainty over what will happen after March 29 when Britain is supposed to leave the EU.
Mrs May now faces the prospect of another potentially damaging Commons revolt on Wednesday when MPs are expected to mount a fresh attempt to block a no-deal break.
In the meantime, she is due to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in the sidelines of the summit on Monday as she continues to seek a resolution to the impasse over the Northern Ireland backstop.
It follows talks on Sunday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh with European Council president Donald Tusk.
Mr Tusk was said to have emphasised the need for “clarity” that any proposed solution would command a majority in the Commons before he was prepared to put it to the remaining EU27 leaders, according to one EU source.
Mrs May’s acknowledgement that she cannot get a deal to put to MPs this week, means there will now be a further series of votes in the Commons on an amendable Government motion on Wednesday.
A cross-party group of MPs seeking to block a no-deal break immediately confirmed they would be tabling an amendment giving the House the power to demand a delay to Brexit if an agreement is not in place by March 13.
Over the weekend three pro-EU Cabinet ministers – Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark – signalled they could be prepared to vote for it if there was no breakthrough in the negotiations.
There was speculation that up to 100 Tory MPs – including as many as 20 ministers – could be prepared to join them as patience among MPs opposed to no-deal is stretched to breaking point.
Even if PM now won’t do “meaningful vote” on a Deal, she still promised to lay an amendable motion this week. We will push cross party amendment this week paving way for our Bill to safeguard against No Deal. PM remarks make it even more vital Commons votes for Bill #NotoNoDeal pic.twitter.com/jCcm3kh8T9— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) February 24, 2019
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood told The Times: “The scale of the damage no-deal would do to our economy, security and reputation and the growing threat that it might happen by default overshadows any leverage it may have had in our negotiations with the EU.
“We must put country first and rule out no-deal.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who drew up the amendment with Conservative former minister Oliver Letwin, said it would now become the “real meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal.
“The Prime Minister isn’t acting responsibly in the national interest, but MPs from all sides need to do so,” she said.
Mrs May, however, said a delay to Brexit would not resolve the deadlock over the backstop, with the Government seeking legally binding assurance it will not mean Britain is tied indefinitely to EU customs arrangements.
“Now, often people talk about the extension of Article 50 as if that will actually solve the issue. Of course it won’t. It defers the point of decision,” she said.
“There will always come a point where we have to decide whether we accept the deal that’s been negotiated or not. And that will be a decision for every member of Parliament across the House.”
- Press Association