Brexit: 'Extra time' may be needed, says Jeremy Hunt

Brexit: 'Extra time' may be needed, says Jeremy Hunt

The European Union is prepared to take Brexit down to a last-minute, high-stakes summit rather than cave in to British Prime Minister Theresa May's demands over the next few weeks, diplomats said. "The withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated", he said in the European Parliament.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he spoke with May on the phone on Wednesday and directly told her that the withdrawal agreement was not open for renegotiation.

Barring an extension of Article 50, the process by which the United Kingdom leaves the EU, Britain is scheduled to quit the bloc on March 29, regardless of whether or not a deal is secured.

Downing Street was also discussing the possibility of Parliament sitting for extra hours in the run up to Brexit, the spokesman said. The proposal would see the Connecting Europe Facility adapted to ensure Member States' ports can still like to Ireland; and to provide financial support for border security.

O'BRIEN: I thought it increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit, which would ultimately bring about a hard border, damage relations between Ireland and Britain, cause much greater economic damage.

"If we were in the backstop, it would be quite hard for us to engage with partners, not knowing when the end date would be when we could implement any agreement", he said on a trip to Northern Ireland.

As the U.K. will leave the bloc, the border between Northern Ireland - a U.K. territory - and the Republic of Ireland will remain the only land border between the U.K. and the EU.

'The withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated.


In a statement following the call, the Irish government said: "The Taoiseach set out once again the unchanged Irish and European Union position on the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop, noting that the latest developments had reinforced the need for a backstop which is legally robust and workable in practice".

Some of the sharpest opposition to her plan comes from the country which would be most affected, Ireland, which, as NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, is in a very hard position.

Mrs May's trip to Liverpool saw her unable to answer an urgent question in the House of Commons from Mr Corbyn on what progress she had made in achieving legal changes to her Brexit deal. At this point, Barnier took the opportunity to take aim at both of May's former Brexit secretaries, Dominic Raab and David Davis, whom he said were trying to lay the blame for the current situation on Brussels.

And Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told May by phone that "the latest developments had reinforced the need for a backstop which is legally robust and workable in practice", an Irish government spokesman said.

It means Mrs May is facing her prospect of the Commons rejecting her Brexit deal when MPs hold a "meaningful vote" on the agreement - expected to be held next month - unless she can persuade a sizeable number of parliamentarians to reverse their position.

Coveney said, however, that he welcomed the fact that MPs had voted in favour of an amendment that commits the government to avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

Other frustrated European Union officials including Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier insisted the remaining 27 European Union members were united and determined not to abandon the backstop clause they believe is key to maintaining peace on the border.

Labour's official policy is to consider supporting a public vote if their preferred outcomes of an early general election or forcing May into accepting Labour's alternative Brexit plan can not be achieved.

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