U.K.'s Divorce From EU May Need to Be Delayed: Brexit Update
Theresa May, U.K. prime minister (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

U.K.'s Divorce From EU May Need to Be Delayed: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- With just two months to go until the U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union, government ministers are beginning to voice publicly what they’ve long been saying privately: Brexit may have to be delayed.

Key Developments

  • Government cancels planned Feb. 14-25 Parliament recess to make time for Brexit legislation
  • Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says Brexit may have to be delayed
  • Theresa May is meeting Conservative backbenchers to discuss alternatives to Irish backstop

Hammond’s Spending Review Is Overshadowed (5:20 p.m.)

In another sign that Brexit is getting in the way of the day-to-day working of government, it emerged that Treasury civil servants preoccupied with Brexit are struggling to find time for the 2019 spending review. That’s a problem because it’s a set-piece opportunity for Prime Minister Theresa May to show that almost a decade of austerity is at an end.

Morgan: ‘Serious, Detailed’ Discussion With May (3:40 p.m.)

Conservative Nicky Morgan, who chairs Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, said she and four other MPs met with Theresa May earlier today to discuss a compromise proposal she and others floated this week to bridge the divide between pro-European Tories and their Brexiter colleagues.

She declined to go into detail on the meeting, but said in a text message: “It was a serious and detailed discussion, and a follow-up is already planned for later today.” That follow-up meeting is with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, she said.

Selmayr, Verhofstadt Said to Meet U.K. MPs (1:50 p.m.)

Secretary-General of the European Commission Martin Selmayr and European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt will meet British members of Parliament in Brussels on Monday.

Lawmakers from the cross-party Exiting the EU Committee want to see how far the EU is prepared to move toward the British position, according to one lawmaker who will attend the meeting. They are keen to meet Selmayr, who has taken a more hands-on role in the Brexit negotiations, the member of Parliament said.

The committee represents a range of opinion. Its chairman Hilary Benn favors close ties with the bloc, while arch Brexiters Jacob Rees-Mogg and Peter Bone also sit on the panel.

U.K. Cancels Parliamentary Recess Due to Brexit (11:30 a.m.)

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, who’s in charge of government business, told lawmakers she won’t seek their approval for a planned recess in February, because they may “need to continue to sit to make progress on key business.” A government official later confirmed the recess would be canceled.

Leadsom said she’s confident all required Brexit legislation will be able to be passed by Parliament before March 29. “We are very much under pressure, but it’s all very much under control,” Leadsom said.

May to Meet MPs on Border Technology (11:25 a.m.)

Prime Minister Theresa May will meet Conservative lawmakers who advocate replacing the Withdrawal Agreement’s Irish backstop provisions with technology that could render a future border invisible, according to her spokesman, James Slack.

Brexiters and pro-remain Conservatives earlier this week announced they’d come up with a compromise position on Brexit that could bridge the divide within the ruling party. The so-called Malthouse Compromise would rely on technical solutions, and May has said it’s something she’s prepared to look at as she tries to devise firm proposals to take back to Brussels.

A note of caution: Business Secretary Greg Clark told ITV late on Wednesday that he’s looked at technological border solutions, and “I myself don’t see that being currently available.”

Hunt Says Brexit Delay Could Be Necessary (Earlier)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC radio this morning that Brexit negotiations with EU could go close to March 29 deadline and U.K. might need short delay in exit to pass necessary legislation. He’s the most senior figure yet in government to publicly acknowledge that the premier’s timeline may slip.

“It’s true that if we ended up approving a deal in the days before March 29 we might need a few days to pass critical legislation,” Hunt said.

Hunt also said the U.K.’s proposals for the Ireland border will take some time to pull together. “This is not going to happen in the next few days,” he said. “We have to put these proposals together, we need to work them up.”


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