Britain Targets Brexit Deal Within Days as May Heads to Brussels
Prime Minister Theresa May is heading back to Brussels in a last-ditch attempt to save her Brexit deal, as businesses express growing alarm at the U.K.’s looming divorce from the European Union.
The British government sees May’s meeting on Wednesday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as a crucial chance to get legally binding changes to the so-called Irish border backstop, which has proved the biggest obstacle to getting a deal.
But EU officials are playing down the prospects of an imminent breakthrough, saying the meeting is just a staging post in the resumption of talks.
“There isn’t enough movement for me to be able to expect this to be a discussion with a concrete outcome,” Juncker said at a news conference in Stuttgart, Germany. In a later panel discussion, he expressed his frustration at the state of talks. “I’m losing my time with this Brexit,” he said.
If talks this week go according to plan, May’s team hopes to put a revised Brexit deal to a binding vote in Parliament early next week -- and before Feb. 27, U.K. officials said. That’s the date when members of Parliament opposed to Britain leaving the bloc without an agreement would have the chance to take the process out of May’s hands.
May’s mission comes amid a growing chorus of dismay from business leaders worried about a no-deal Brexit, with just five weeks left until the U.K. is due to leave the EU on March 29. “The pantomime needs to end and we need clarity as quickly as possible,’’ Stephen Phipson, chief executive off the U.K.’s main manufacturing lobby group MakeUK, said. “We need to stop this messing around in Parliament.’’
Britain’s auto-making industry was dealt a severe blow on Tuesday when Honda Motor Co. confirmed plans to shut its factory in Swindon, 80 miles west of London, which employs about 3,500 workers.
Gloomier in Brussels
- Business Secretary Greg Clark warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a “disaster” and a “hammer blow” to U.K. industry after Honda confirmed plans to close its Swindon plant
- Clark also said trade deals with Japan and South Korea won’t be ready before Brexit
- Environment Secretary Michael Gove pledged to protect British farmers and uphold food standards if the country leaves the EU without a deal
- Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the Labour leadership need to listen to critics as an eighth member of Parliament quit the party. Joan Ryan announced late Tuesday night she was leaving because she believed Labour under leader Jeremy Corbyn has become “institutionally antisemitic.”
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