Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arrives for a cabinet meeting in Downing street in London, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

UK rules out Brexit extension as May seeks EU help on deal

Britain will leave the EU on March 29 when the two-year period times out

The British government on Tuesday ruled out seeking an extension to the two-year period taking the country out of the European Union 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.

READ MORE: Brexit critics risk damaging UK democracy

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 Tuesday that the EU can only offer political reassurances to help May persuade reluctant lawmakers to accept the Brexit deal.

French European affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau urged reluctant British lawmakers to back the deal, which lays out things like Britain’s future financial obligations, the rights of citizens hit by Brexit and steps to keep goods flowing freely across the Irish border.

“We really need to have a ratification of the withdrawal agreement. This is the best solution for both parties,” Loiseau told reporters.

Any help for May to convince parliament, Loiseau said, would amount to “political assurances, but there is nothing more that we can do.”

The withdrawal agreement, which is required before more wide-ranging discussions on future relations can commence, foresees relatively close economic ties with Europe, particularly in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, in order to avoid the imposition of a hard border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.

READ MORE: Top EU court rules UK can change mind over Brexit

As well as frustrating a number of lawmakers who want a complete break from the EU, the plan also raises the prospect that the U.K. could be “trapped” in a customs arrangement if no agreement on future trade ties is reached. There are also a number of lawmakers who have said they will vote against the deal because they want another referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Meanwhile, some 55 British legislators have expressed safety concerns in a letter to London’s police chief after a lawmaker was verbally abused while discussing Brexit outside Parliament.

The letter was sent to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick Monday night following verbal assaults on Conservative Party legislator Anna Soubry.

The letter says there have been “months of peaceful and calm protests” by groups holding a wide variety of views on Brexit but that recently “an ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections” have moved in.

There have been a number of recent incidents in the area outside Parliament where politicians routinely do live broadcast interviews.

Soubry was repeatedly called a Nazi by protesters while she was being interviewed by BBC. Police say they are investigating.

Lorne Cook, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack dad rescues his two young daughters after truck plunges into Cultus Lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

District warns residents to be prepared for floods

Fraser River may reach levels at highest in 8 years, forecast says

PHOTOS: Playtime is back!

Paula Morrison of Angel Daycare Centre captured a moment of absolute joy

VIDEO: RCMP Emergency Response Team at known drug house in Chilliwack

Armed officers respond to reports of shots, bring in ERT, K-9 unit and spike belt

BREAKING: Homicide investigators probe suspicious death on Highway 1 north of Yale

RCMP found a person with life-threatening injuries early Wednesday, who later died at the scene

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

COVID claims 23rd Langley Lodge patient, making it the deadliest outbreak in B.C.

Coronavirus kills another senior at Langley care home, bringing B.C. total to 166

Family of dead B.C. football star urge changes to mental health policies in hospitals

Uko family disappointed in actions of Regina hospital, hosting public funeral service this weekend

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Most Read