Prime Minister Theresa May was to pile the pressure on Brussels on Friday, saying their willingness to budge could determine whether British MPs finally back a Brexit deal next week.
May was to say the European Union had some choices to make if it wanted to
secure a withdrawal agreement and see Britain leave the bloc in an orderly
fashion on March 29.
Talks between British and EU officials to break the Brexit deadlock are set
to last into the weekend, ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote in London on
Tuesday on whether MPs will accept the deal.
With just three weeks to go until the scheduled departure date of March 29,
concern is growing about the possibility of Britain crashing out of the bloc
after 46 years of membership with no deal in place.
British MPs have so far rejected the withdrawal agreement struck between
London and Brussels, chiefly due to concerns over it’s “backstop” solution.
Talks since have focused on the “backstop”, which is designed to keep the
Irish border open but which critics say could indefinitely lock Britain into
a customs union with the EU.
May was to address an audience of workers in Grimsby, the North Sea port
that is home to one of Britain’s biggest fishing fleets.
May will say that the government remains determined to secure legally
binding changes to the backstop in advance of Tuesday’s vote on the
“Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has to make a choice
too,” May will say, according to her Downing Street office.
“We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest
for the UK to leave with a deal.
“We are working with them but the decisions that the European Union makes
over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote.”
Grimsby ran the world’s largest fishing fleet by the mid-20th century but
its prosperity dramatically declined after Britain joined the European
communities and signed up to the Common Fisheries Policy.
Some 70 percent in the local North East Lincolnshire area voted in favour
of Britain leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum.
– Ongoing talks –
Negotiators are preparing to work through the weekend in a frantic effort
to break the deadlock over the backstop measures, which are aimed at
preventing a hard border with the Republic of Ireland if no alternative
trading arrangements are in place.
“These discussions are running, they’re going to be resuming very shortly,
they’re going to be continuing almost certainly throughout the weekend,”
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who is leading the talks, told British MPs.
In practical terms, London must secure an agreement by late Sunday as any
new documentation relating to the deal must be published by Monday — the day
before the vote.
If May loses Tuesday’s vote, MPs will then vote on Wednesday on whether to
proceed and leave the EU on March 29 without a deal.
If MPs reject that outcome, they would then vote on Thursday on whether to
ask the EU for a postponement.
The request for a delay would have to be accepted unanimously by all member
states and Britain would have to leave the EU on March 29 if it is rejected.