BRUSSELS (AP) – The British government yesterday ruled out seeking an extension to the two-year period taking the country out of the European Union (EU) as Prime Minister Theresa May continued to seek further concessions from the EU ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote next week on her Brexit deal.
In a move that has massive trade, business and political implications, Britain will leave the EU on March 29 when the two-year period that governs the process by which a country can leave the bloc times out, the so-called Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaty.
Without a withdrawal agreement, Britain faces the prospect of crashing out of the bloc on that date with no deal, a development that could see tariffs slapped on British exports to the EU, widespread disruption at ports and shortages of food and pharmaceuticals.
As things stand May does not appear to have the numbers to win the support of enough lawmakers for the Brexit deal that she forged with the EU last November. And that’s raised concerns of a “no-deal” Brexit and prompted talk of an extension to the two-year process or even another referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
“Article 50 will not be extended. We are leaving the EU on the 29th of March this year, because that’s what Article 50 says, that’s what Parliament voted for, and that’s now what domestic British legislation says as well,” Britain’s minister of state for exiting the EU, Martin Callanan, told reporters in Brussels.
Britain can request an extension to the Brexit procedure, but all 27 other EU countries must agree, and the bloc’s leaders said last month that they would need good reasons to prolong it. Officials have said a second Brexit referendum could be one good reason to do so.
May is set to put the deal to lawmakers next week, and has been in talks with several EU leaders about fresh guarantees. She postponed a scheduled vote on the deal in December after it became clear she would lose.
France insisted yesterday that the EU can only offer political reassurances to help May persuade reluctant lawmakers to accept the Brexit deal.