Brexit talks head for late showdown as no-deal crisis looms

Brexit talks head for late showdown as no-deal crisis looms

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit, said Monday he found Corbyn's proposal "interesting". The Prime Minister has been very clear that we are committed to leaving on March 29'.

Mrs May is looking for a way to assuage her party's concerns about the Northern Ireland "backstop" - the default arrangements to avoid a hard border between the province and the Republic of Ireland if Britain and the European Union struggle to reach a long-term partnership agreement in the years ahead.

May said again she did not see a customs union as proposed by the opposition Labor Party as the way to secure agreement.

The prime minister's office said she would tell parliament that "the talks are at a crucial stage".

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, accused her of running down the clock with sham negotiations to pressure parliament into backing her deal.

Hardline Brexit supporters are threatening to inflict yet another Commons defeat on Theresa May over their fears the government is effectively ruling out leaving the European Union with no deal.

Parliament is to hold a debate on Brexit on February 14, but with just 45 days until Britain leaves the bloc it is not expected to change the course of the exit process, and no date has been set for another vote to approve or reject May's deal.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, May said she was not yet ready to put an alternative Brexit deal before parliament, saying it may take time to get a revised deal from Brussels.

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The result of the vote will be purely symbolic, as it will not be legally binding, but a defeat would be a setback for Mrs May as she tries to persuade Brussels to change.

Brexiteer MPs in her Conservative Party are particularly unhappy with the so-called backstop provision meant to keep the border with Ireland free-flowing.

"By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers' rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support", May will say.

The political impasse leaves Britain lurching toward a chaotic no-deal departure that could be costly for businesses and ordinary people in both the United Kingdom and the EU.

May also hinted that a provision in the UK's Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, which dictates that worldwide treaties must sit for 21 days of parliamentary sittings before they can be ratified, would be waived to give her government more time to broker an acceptable deal with the EU.

Mark Francois, vice-chair of the ERG, told the BBC: "We can not vote for this as it is now configured because it rules out no deal and removes our negotiating leverage in Brussels. The meaningful vote will come back just as soon as it possibly can", the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, told BBC radio.

"She is playing for time, and playing with people's jobs, our economic security, and the future of our industries", he said.

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of MPs is to launch a fresh attempt to prevent a no-deal Brexit if Mrs May can not reach an agreement with Brussels by mid-March. Figures released Monday showed that Britain's economy slowed previous year to its joint-slowest annual rate since 2009, with business investment declining for four straight quarters.

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