Theresa May plays down ‘deal or delay’ Brexit report

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LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May has played down reports that she could force MPs to choose between backing her deal or accepting a delay to EU withdrawal. ITV News said chief UK negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar saying the EU was likely to allow an extension to the Brexit process.

The PM suggested MPs should not rely on what someone said to someone else as overheard by someone else, in a bar. “It is very clear the government’s position is the same. We triggered Article 50 (the process by which the UK leaves the EU)… that had a two-year time limit, that ends on the 29 March”.

According to a BBC report, she said; “We want to leave with a deal, and that’s what we are working for.” The prime minister has said she will lift the requirement for a 21-day period before any vote to approve an international treaty, which means she could delay the final Brexit vote until days before the UK is due to leave the EU.

No 10 insists Mrs May still plans to hold a vote on a deal as soon as possible but Labour has accused her of “running down the clock” in an effort to “blackmail” MPs into backing her deal. And European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that “no news is not always good news”, saying the EU was “still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London”.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford urged Mrs May to rule out holding a “meaningful vote” on the deal with less than two weeks to go until Brexit. “The prime minister must stop playing fast and loose – businesses are begging for certainty,” he said.