Commons approves Bill urging May to seek long delay to Brexit

Prime minister and Labour leader agree ‘programme of work’ to find common approach

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says that UK prime minister Theresa May has not moved far enough in crisis talks aimed at breaking the deadlock over Britain's exit from the European Union.


MPs have approved a Bill obliging Theresa May to seek a lengthy delay to Brexit rather than leave the EU without a deal at the end of next week.

The vote came after the British prime minister met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for talks on a common approach to Brexit which both sides described as constructive.

The two leaders have agreed a “programme of work” and appointed negotiating teams who will meet today for a full day of discussions.

“Today’s talks were constructive, with both sides showing flexibility and a commitment to bring the current Brexit uncertainty to a close. We have agreed a programme of work to ensure we deliver for the British people, protecting jobs and security,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament yesterday that if MPs approved a deal before next week’s emergency meeting of the European Council, Britain could remain in the EU until May 22nd. But he warned that there could be no further short extension without a deal and that Britain would have to seek a longer extension that would involve holding European Parliament elections next month.

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Merkel in Dublin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin today where the two will discuss the possible second extension of article 50 requested by Mrs May.

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar told TDs that while many Border checks and procedures required after a no-deal Brexit could be done remotely, checks on animals could only be done physically by vets.

He said that options were being examined by officials, though senior sources said that talks with the European Commission on no-deal Border preparations had intensified behind closed doors in recent weeks. Dr Merkel will hold a round-table meeting with a group of people from the Border areas, including businesspeople and those with direct experience of the Northern conflict.

German officials described the chancellor’s visit to Dublin as a show of solidarity with the Government amid ongoing Brexit chaos in London.

‘War and peace’

“This is about peace in Ireland,” Dr Merkel said. “We often say Europe is a question of war and peace but [in Ireland] we can see that it is a question of violence or non-violence.”

Ahead of her visit, the German leader insisted the onus remains on Mrs May to present a solution to the Brexit impasse. Dr Merkel has promised to engage “to the last hour” for a constructive agreement with London, because it was in Germany’s interest.

German officials said they were engaging with their Irish counterparts on the Border question as part of a wider debate on the future of the EU27 and the integrity of the single market.

On Tuesday, French president Emmanuel Macron expressed wariness of granting further extensions to the UK departure date, particularly without clear reasons and goals. The chancellor agrees that an extension is not a given, and London must explain why it is needed.

But, around Berlin, officials are wary that impatience now could reflect badly later on the EU and Germany when the history of Brexit is written.


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