UK PM Asks Lawmakers for More Time on Brexit

UK and EU flags

The two countries have signed a post-Brexit trade deal that would cover most of the existing agreements that govern relations with the EU.

"We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this house requires and deliver Brexit on time", May said in her statement at the House of Commons.

Corbyn also accused the Prime Minister of "recklessly running down the clock" so that MPs would have to vote for her Brexit deal.

May also ruled out the idea of a customs union, which is one of the Labour Party's five demands for Brexit, set out by its leader Jeremy Corbyn in a letter to the prime minister last week.

"It would be an extraordinary outcome if the thing that the backstop is seeking to avoid, which is a hard border in Northern Ireland, if the European Union were so determined to be completely intransigent about it that they actually incur the very thing that they're seeking to avoid by pushing the United Kingdom into a position where we leave without a deal".

May said if she had not yet reached a deal in Brussels, she would deliver another progress report on February 26 and provide another chance for Parliament to express its opinion on her approach the following day.

"Referring to the rejection she received from Eurocrats on Thursday, who before she even arrived in Brussels said: "...she knows that the Commission is not prepared to reopen the issue", May told the House: "...as expected, president Juncker maintained the EU's position that they will not reopen the withdrawal agreement.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve warned that time was running short for the ratification of a deal under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.

But Mrs May responded: "In most circumstances, that period may be important in order for this House to have an opportunity to study that agreement".

"So while we will follow normal procedure if we can, where there is insufficient time remaining following a successful meaningful vote, we will make provision in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - with Parliament's consent - to ensure that we are able to ratify on time to guarantee our exit in an orderly way".

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Media captionConfused by Brexit jargon?

The EU last week rebuffed Mrs May's efforts to renegotiate a deal that she secured a year ago but was later overwhelmingly rejected by MPs.

Britain's opposition Labour Party will back a proposal to try to force the government to take "crucial decisions" on its Brexit plans by the middle of March, the party's Brexit spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn said Mrs May "is playing for time and playing with people's jobs, our economic security and the future of our industry".

"This week Parliament should set a clear deadline for the government to come forward with its revised deal or give MPs the chance to decide what happens next". An extension would mean a European Parliament election in May, and I can assure the Prime Minister that UKIP, the authentic party of Brexit, is ready to contest it.

She appeared to open up the possibility that MPs might in the end be asked to vote at a moment of peak jeopardy, and that ministers might be willing to let the matter run that long.

"Her scheme is to run the clock down so people are more likely to accept her deal", Mr Simpson said.

In excerpts released before her statement, May says: "The talks are at a crucial stage".

That is how May intends Brexit to unfold, her chief negotiator, Oliver Robbins, is reported to have said.

May also hinted that a provision in the UK's Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, which dictates that global treaties must sit for 21 days of parliamentary sittings before they can be ratified, would be waived to give her government more time to broker an acceptable deal with the EU.

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