May to appeal for more time to secure backstop changes

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD and the UK Prime Minister Theresa May

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street in central London after winning a confidence vote on 12 December 2018.

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said firms were now in the "emergency zone" due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, ahead of the March 29 European Union departure date.

If May succeeds in winning changes to her Brexit deal in the next few days she could bring it back for a debate and vote before February 14, and this more general debate would not go ahead.

Housing minister James Brokenshire confirmed May's plans to the BBC: "The government will commit that the meaningful vote - the deal coming back - has not happened by 27 February, then we will allow a further motion, voteable in parliament, to take place, to give that sense of assurance as to the process moving forward".

Should the parliament give May more time on Thursday, it would mark the second extension since her Brexit deal was defeated by MPs in January.

'And for the country to do that, as Theresa May wants to do - to leave without knowing what Brexit you get - this would be, in my view, an incredibly foolish thing for the country to do.

She has said she wants to bring a revised deal back to parliament for a vote "as soon as possible" but has not yet set a date for doing so. It is that promise that led to this week's vote.

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Opponents of the government accuse May of deliberately wasting time so that Parliament will face a last-minute choice between her deal and no deal.

Writing in the Sunday Times, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said Labour had drafted an amendment which, if successful, would guarantee that a vote on the Brexit options is held by the end of February. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is set to head to Brussels on Monday for talks.

Mr Raab also pushed for Britain to have a unilateral right to pull out of the Irish border backstop.

The major sticking point in negotiations are so-called backstop provisions created to keep open the border between Northern Ireland, which will leave the European Union with Britain, and the Republic of Ireland.

But Brussels calls the arrangement essential for both keeping the border open and preserving the European Union's integrity.

But May's office published her reply to Corbyn late on Sunday, showing little appetite for a U-turn which would risk splitting her fractious party by ruling out the scope for Britain to strike its own trade deals around the world.

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