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MPs to call on Theresa May to delay Brexit in order to get better deal with Brussels

3 min read

Theresa May should request an extension to the Article 50 process in order to give the Government more time to strike a good Brexit deal, a cross-party group of MPs is to declare.

A report by the Exiting the EU Committee to be published on Sunday will say ministers will struggle to reach agreement with Brussels on issues like the Irish border and citizens' rights before the cut-off date of 29 March, 2019.

According to the Huffington Post, pro-EU Tories joined forces with Labour, SNP, Lib Dem and Plaid Cymru members to give them a majority on the finely-balanced committee.

But the move has sparked a bitter feud, with pro-Brexit Conservative and DUP members of the committee refusing to endorse the decision and instead writing a rival minority report of their own.

Theresa May triggered the two-year Article 50 process in a letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk a year ago.

The committee's findings are a huge blow to the Prime Minister, who travels to Brussels next week for a crunch summit at which she hopes to agree the terms of a post-Brexit transition period, during which Britain would still follow EU rules as it prepares to finally break away from the bloc.

However, the Exiting the EU Committee report is expected to say that not enough progress has been made in the negotiations so far, and so the current timetable for departure should be extended.

In particular, they will say that huge question marks remain over how to avoid a hard border in Ireland once the UK leaves the single market and customs union.

Both sides hope to reach an agreement by October of this year, leaving around six months for it to be ratified by the UK parliament and the 27 other member states.

But the committee says that if that is not possible, Britain should look to extend the Article 50 deadline by a short period.

PoliticsHome understands that Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Whittingdale - who is deputy to committee chairman Hilary Benn - tabled their own report disagreeing with the majority findings, but it was voted down.

In a sign of the ill-feeling on the committee, one source said they had "gone behind Hilary's back" in order to do so.

Pro-EU campaign group Open Britain have welcomed the development.

Executive director James McGrory said: "The Government’s spectacular loss of their majority at the general election was a message from the people that they expected parliament and our elected representatives to take control of the Brexit process.

"When MPs from different parties join together to make it clear that the Brexit negotiations are in such a mess, and that an extension of negotiation is probably going to be required, the Prime Minister should sit up and take notice.

"We are in a position where both the public and parliamentarians have no confidence in the Brexit process and where new facts are coming to light which show that promises made in the referendum are never going to be delivered. 

"As we discover more and more of the problems with Brexit, we have every right to keep an open mind about whether it is the right path for our country."

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