News ID: 237451
Published: 0320 GMT January 16, 2019

British PM: We are leaving EU on March 29

British PM: We are leaving EU on March 29

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that the UK will be leaving the European Union on March 29, and that the bloc would only consider extending the 'Article 50' negotiating period if there was a credible alternative exit plan.

"The government's policy is that we are leaving the European Union on the 29th of March. But the EU would only extend Article 50 if actually it was clear that there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal," she told Parliament, a day after her proposed Brexit deal was rejected by 432-202, Reuters reported.

She said there is a long way to go to bring Britain back together after the divisive 2016 Brexit referendum, calling on lawmakers to back her government in a confidence vote so she could finish the job.

"We are living through an historic moment in our nation's history following the referendum that divided our nation in half. We dearly need to bring our country back together, and last night's vote showed that we do have a long way to go," May said.

"But, I don't believe a general election is that path to do that, and I don't believe that a government led by (opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn) is the path to do that either."

With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the United Kingdom is now in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project it joined in 1973.

After lawmakers in the 800-year-old parliament dismissed May’s deal, she pledged to speak to senior parliamentarians to find a compromise that would avoid a disorderly no-deal Brexit or another referendum on membership.

“The prime minister, having got through today, assuming that she does, will then be seeking to talk to senior parliamentarians,” House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said.

Labour’s finance minister-in-waiting, John McDonnell, said May could eventually get a deal through Parliament if she negotiated a compromise with his party.

Labour says its aim is to win power and negotiate Brexit on better terms. However, many Labour members want to see another referendum with an option to cancel Brexit, and the party says it is ruling out nothing if it fails to bring May down.

Corbyn said May was leading a “zombie government” and that she had not spoken to him since the Brexit vote.

May’s humiliating loss appears to catastrophically undermine her two-year strategy of forging an amicable divorce with close ties to the EU after the March 29 exit.

If May is unable to forge a compromise deal, she will have to choose between calling a national election, delaying Brexit or going for a no-deal exit.

Many Conservative lawmakers would oppose fighting a national election at such a crucial juncture, especially after she lost the party its majority in a snap poll in 2017. May herself said on Wednesday an election would be “the worst thing we could do”.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier indicated that one way forward would be for Britain to accept closer alignment with EU regulations. EU officials say London could, for example, abandon its plan to leave the EU customs union and single market, but that is unlikely to win backing among many Conservatives.


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