Michael Staines
Michael Staines

08.44 15 Mar 2019


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The Democratic Unionist Party has said it is holding "significant" talks with UK Government ministers today as impasse over Brexit rolls on.

The party’s opposition to the Irish border backstop has been one of the main obstacles facing Brexit negotiators since it entered a confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservative Party in June 2017.

In recent days the party has held talks with the UK Attorney General Geoffrey Cox aimed at convincing him to change his legal advice over the backstop.

However, Sky News is reporting that the party will now remain in talks with Mr Cox throughout the weekend to discuss possible changes to UK law in an effort to “underline interpretations on the backstop.”

It comes after British MPs last night voted to request a delay to the Brexit process until the end of June at the earliest.

After the vote UK Prime Minister Theresa May began preparing to hold a third ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement as soon as next week.

Last night’s House of Commons vote paved the way for a one-off delay to the Brexit process until June 30th – provided the House passes the deal next week.

If the deal is again rejected however, the extension would have to be significantly longer and would require the UK to take part in European elections.

The UK was due to leave the EU on March 29th but last night’s motion acknowledging that this will not happen was passed by 413 votes to 202.

Macron Merkel Brexit File photo of French President Emmanuel Macron with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 27-02-219. Image: Liewig Christian/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

Extension

Mrs May will now have to formally request an extension to the Brexit process – with all 27 remaining states needing to agree.

After the vote yesterday, a House of Commons spokesperson said: “The prime minister absolutely wanted and strived for the UK to be leaving the EU on 29 March.”

“Everything she had done since she entered office was intended to deliver that.

“She didn't want there to be an extension and brought forward the withdrawal agreement twice.

“Parliament chose to reject that deal and we now have to confront the difficult position that decisions taken by parliament have left us in.”

Tusk Brexit President of the European Council Donald Tusk attends the first League of Arab States (LAS)-European Union (EU) Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 25-02-2019. Image: Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa

EU response

A European Commission spokesperson said: “It will be for the European Council to consider such a request, giving priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension.”

Yesterday, European Council President Donald Tusk said he would urge the EU27 to remain open to a “long extension” provided the UK “rethinks its Brexit strategy” and builds a consensus around it.

He is due to meet with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today and will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

He is expected to meet with the Taoiseach in Dublin on Monday.

However European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt questioned why European leaders should grant an extension if the UK Government was not ready “for a cross-party approach to break the current deadlock.”

Brexit

In the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also calling for the Commons to be given a say on the way forward.

“After the last few days of government chaos and some defeats, all of us now have the opportunity and the responsibility to work together to find a solution to the crisis facing this country, where the government has so dramatically failed to do so,” he said.

In a bid to placate MPs, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said that if Mrs May is defeated once more next week, the government will hold two weeks of debate allowing the Commons a chance to establish a majority around an alternative Brexit strategy.


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