Theresa May insists she will deliver Brexit 'on time' after ministers mull delay

Posted On: 
3rd February 2019

Theresa May has insisted she will deliver Brexit “on time” despite senior figures in the Cabinet admitting it could be delayed.

Theresa May argued the UK will leave the EU on schedule
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister said she was “determined” to take the UK out of the EU on 29 March this year as she pledged to head back to Brussels with “new ideas” to break the Brexit logjam.

But her hopes of ditching the controversial ‘backstop’ plan to protect the Northern Ireland border were furiously rejected by the Irish government.

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Ministers have been warned that the UK will need to seek a Brexit extension in order to process the mountain of legislation needed to implement it - assuming Britain does agree a deal.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt have both admitted the Article 50 process could be extended, while senior backbenchers have said they could stomach a delay.

But a defiant Mrs May continued to reject suggestions Brexit could be pushed back in an article for the Sunday Telegraph.

“I’m determined to deliver Brexit, and determined to deliver on time – on March 29, 2019,” she said.

“So let’s put aside our differences and focus on getting the deal over the line.”

She also said she would return to Brussels with a “fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination,” after MPs said she must renegotiate the backstop plan.

Critics argue the backstop - which would see the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit - could leave Britain tied to EU rules indefinitely and possibly break up the Union.

'NO CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVES'

The Prime Minister is mulling whether to seek a time-limit to the backstop, a unilateral exit mechanism, or ditching it altogether for so-called “alternative arrangements”.

But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, writing for the Sunday Times, said “there are no credible alternative arrangements" to the proposal.

He added: “The EU will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and there will be no withdrawal agreement without the backstop.”

And he warned that the backstop was needed to "ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement," which ended the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland.

But Mrs May dismissed the suggestion “that seeking alternative arrangements for the backstop constituted 'ripping up the Good Friday Agreement'”.

And she said: "As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I would never do anything to put that union at risk or jeopardise the hard won peace."