UK Government denies ‘deal or delay’ strategy after adviser overheard discussing extension of Article 50

Written by Tom Freeman on 13 February 2019 in News

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay denies Theresa May will threaten to delay Brexit altogether by seeking an extension to Article 50

Stephen Barclay - Holyrood

UK ministers have denied Theresa May will force MPs to choose between her deal or delaying Brexit altogether, after reports her negotiator was overheard in Brussels discussing the strategy.

ITN and others have reported UK negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar saying the EU was likely to allow a “long” extension to the Brexit process.

"The issue is whether Brussels is clear on the terms of extension," the adviser is reported to have said. "In the end they will probably just give us an extension."

But this morning Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the government remains committed to Britain leaving the EU on 29 March.

A spokesman for the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers said: "Who’s in charge of this? Either the PM is and this is what she wants, or she isn’t and is just doing what the civil service tells her."

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "As I have said before, Olly Robbins represents the civil service fifth column in our country.

“He should be sacked immediately for a combination of treachery and incompetence.”

May told MPs yesterday she may be forced to rip up parliamentary rules allowing MPs 21 days to scrutinise the Brexit treaty to meet the March deadline.

"While we will follow normal procedure if we can, where there is insufficient time remaining after the meaningful vote, we will make provision in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, with Parliament's consent, to ensure we are able to ratify on time to guarantee our exit in an orderly way," she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “running down the clock” so that MPs would be forced to back her deal.

“The prime minister is playing for time and playing with people's jobs, our economic security and the future of our industry,” he said.

“This week Parliament should set a clear deadline for the government to come forward with its revised deal or give MPs the chance to decide what happens next.”

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