Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 and will not suspend the process of leaving, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday, adding that it would meet its legal obligations on a financial settlement with the bloc.
“We will not extend Article 50,” May told parliament, when asked about the clause in the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which allows for countries to leave the bloc.
Lawmakers will have to consider the British people’s vote to leave the European Union when parliament is asked to vote on a final Brexit deal.
She said she shared the concerns of those who believe a Brexit backstop to avoid a border on the island of Ireland impinges on British sovereignty, but it was an improvement on previous proposals.
“The references to the backstop do raise some difficult issues,” May told parliament.
“I fully accept that across the house, there are concerns in relation to the backstop. Indeed, I share some of those concerns,” she said.
Mrs May is battling to save a draft divorce deal with the European Union after her Brexit secretary and other ministers quit in protest at an agreement they say will trap Britain in the bloc’s orbit for years.
Just over 12 hours after she announced that her team of top ministers had agreed to the terms of the draft agreement, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and work and pensions minister Esther McVey quit, saying they could not support it.
Their departure, and the resignations of two junior ministers, shakes May’s divided government and her Brexit strategy, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal. Some lawmakers in London openly questioned whether May’s government will survive.
Raab is the second Brexit secretary to quit over May’s plans to leave the EU, the biggest shift in British policy in more than 40 years. By leaving now, some suggested that Raab could be positioning himself as a possible successor to May.
But the prime minister showed little sign of backing down in parliament, where she warned lawmakers they now faced a stark decision.
“The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated,” she said.
More to follow…
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