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Theresa May struggles with Brexit challenges at home and abroad
  • 16 November, 2017

Government faces rebellious Tories and an EU demand for more money to unblock talks

Theresa May is struggling to keep her Brexit plans on course as she contends with a mutiny by pro-Europe Conservative members of parliament and the clock ticks on divorce talks with the EU. Bereft of a majority in Westminster and facing an EU demand for tens of billions of euros to unblock the Brussels talks, the UK prime minister is increasingly coming under pressure. What do the domestic and European problems afflicting her government mean for its plans to deliver Brexit in March 2019? We look at some of the big questions confronting Mrs May in the days and weeks ahead. Can Tory rebels at Westminster delay Brexit? At least 15 pro-European Tory MPs are trying to amend the government’s flagship EU withdrawal legislation to give parliament a greater say over a final exit deal. They insist they are not trying to stop Brexit altogether. Instead they want to remove an amendment put forward by Mrs May that states Britain will leave the EU at 11pm London time on March 29 2019. Given the parliamentary maths, they could succeed. Dominic Grieve, the pro-EU former attorney-general, describes the specific date as “thoroughly stupid”, because it limits the government’s flexibility in Brexit negotiations, especially if they run to the wire. Privately Mrs May’s team admits that the “Brexit day” amendment was only added to the bill at the last minute to keep pro-Brexit MPs happy. But they add that Britain is already set to leave at the end of March 2019 because that is the expiry date of the two-year Article 50 process. Extending that process would require unanimity among all EU member states. However, Britain might be forced to ask for such a step if exit talks are not wrapped up in October 2018 as the EU and British governments hope. Mrs May also needs time to enact in parliament a second piece of legislation — a “withdrawal agreement and implementation bill” announced this week — that would put the exit deal and a proposed transition period on to the statute book. What is happening in Brussels? The EU wants Britain to make “sufficient progress” over the next few weeks in its stalled divorce talks. The bloc says that without such breakthroughs — on the issues of citizen rights, the Brexit bill and the Northern Ireland border — it will not give the UK the green light it wants for the start of negotiations on future ties. The UK is anxious to be given the go-ahead at an EU summit on December 14-15, because it also wants to begin talks on a transition period of about two years after Brexit — an issue UK business says needs to be agreed as a matter of urgency... 

Article from the "Financial Times"

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