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British Prime Minister Theresa May forced to delay
'Brexit' so as to avoid 'No-Deal' as MPs pass Law

by Jeremy Hunt LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Proposals to force British Prime Minister Theresa May to delay the date of Brexit—again—on Monday were approved by both the House of Lords and House of Commons.

With just days to go before the Brexit deadline, April 12, the prime minister will now have to ask the European Union (EU) to extend Article 50 in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The cross-party proposal was raced through the House of Commons in a single day last week and completed its journey through the House of Lords on Monday night.

The passage of the bill means the authority of May’s government was further weakened as it would give MPs a chance to make legally binding changes to her requested departure date during a debate in the parliament on Tuesday.

The House of Lords made two changes to it that removed a significant sting for the prime minister, which was signed off by the lower house on Monday.

All the parliamentary stages have now been completed and it will be sent to the Queen for "Royal Assent."

Under the new terms, British lawmakers will still be able to tell the prime minister how long she should ask the EU to delay Brexit, but they will not be able to dispute whatever new date Brussels sets and send the prime minister back to ask again.

Britain is on track to leave the EU on Friday but the prime minister has chosen not to pursue a no-deal divorce.

The prime minister wants to move the Brexit date from April 12 to June 30, but EU leaders will give her a longer extension, which she does not prefer.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday that May was leaving "no stone unturned" to try to resolve the Brexit problem.

Arriving in Luxembourg for a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, Hunt said: "I can’t tell you that I’m very confident or not confident. We are going into these talks sincerely and we have to see what the outcome is."

EU leaders are divided about what to do if the British politicians fail to strike a deal among themselves.

May has lost three votes on her Brexit deal, with ardent Brexiteers and Eurosceptic Conservatives joining forces to defeat it.

The passage of the bill in parliament on Monday came as talks between May and Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labour leader, failed to break the current Brexit deadlock.

It also came hours before May’s trip to Berlin and Paris on Tuesday, when the prime minister will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for a delay of the Brexit date, which has been pushed back from March 29 to April 12, May’s spokesman said Monday.

May also spoke by phone to many other European leaders ahead of Wednesday’s EU summit, during which she is expected to seek a second extension to Britain’s exit date from the EU.

Britain’s impasse over Brexit casts a cloud of uncertainty over the EU leaders’ meeting for emergency talks in Brussels on Wednesday.

The leaders from 27 EU member states are frustrated with all the Brexit wrangling. They had agreed that April 12 will be the Brexit date, if by then May still has not got the withdrawal agreement passed by parliament.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, was in Dublin on Monday for talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

They discussed developments in London as well as preparations for a possible no-deal scenario.
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UPDATES:

EU27 grants flexible Brexit extension until end of October

BRUSSELS (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the European Union(EU)’s remaining 27 member countries have agreed to a flexible Brexit extension until Oct. 31, European Council President Donald Tusk said here at a midnight press conference following a special EU summit.

This means Britain has an additional six months to find the best possible solution, said Tusk.

Such an extension should last only as long as necessary, and in any event no longer than Oct. 31, said a statement released by the EU after marathon closed-door talks.

If the withdrawal agreement is ratified by both parties before this date, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month, said the statement.

The EU underlined that if Britain is still a member of the bloc and if it has not ratified the withdrawal agreement by May 22, it must hold the elections to the European Parliament, otherwise Brexit will take place on June 1.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker warned at the press conference that the extra time won’t be used for further negotiations. There can be no opening of the withdrawal agreement, he said.

The EU has planned to review the progress of Brexit at its summer summit in June. The summit will not be a negotiation session, Juncker said.

In response, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the press in Brussels that she continues to believe Britain needs to leave the EU with a deal as soon as possible.

European leaders were gathering in Brussels on Wednesday for a special summit, ahead of which the British prime minister sent a letter to Tusk, asking for a further extension of the Article 50 period.
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British Prime Minister Theresa May to speak at parliament on Brexit delay

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May will give the Parliament an updated briefing on the latest Brexit delay on Thursday.

After an emergency summit of the European Union (EU) agreed to extend the Brexit deadline from April 12 to Oct. 31, the prime minister said in Brussels that she will make a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday.

She said her government will resume talks with the opposition Labour Party in order to break the current Brexit deadlock. Three days of cross-party talks made no progress last week.

May said the "choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear" as she accepted the new Brexit delay.

She voiced her "sincere regret" about that no agreement has been reached back in her country on how Britain will leave the EU.

The prime minister emphasized that although the deadline has been extended to Oct. 31, Britain can leave as soon as a withdrawal deal is passed by the British lawmakers.

That was a "key request" of hers, she said.

May added that if the Brexit deal is passed by May 22, Britain won’t have to take part in the European elections.

"I know that there is huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension," she said.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

British lawmakers give backing to Brexit delay ahead of critical Brussels summit

by Larry Neild LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British MPs in the House of Commons voted in favor Tuesday of seeking to delay Britain’s membership of the European Union until June 30.

Following debate, lawmakers backed the call by 420 votes to 110.

They want the EU to agree to what would be a second extension to Article 50, the measure that determines Britain’s departure date from the bloc.

Without an extension or a potential withdrawal deal with Brussels, Britain is due to leave the EU this coming Friday.

The vote will be seen as a boost for Prime Minister Theresa May who will be asking for a delay when she addresses leaders Wednesday April 10) of the 27 other member states of the EU in Brussels.

May has spent the day in Europe seeking support for an extension ahead of tomorrow’s emergency summit meeting of the EU council, called specifically to discuss the Brexit crisis.

May met Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday before heading to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron.

In London May’s top ministers were holding talks with the main opposition Labour Party to seek a potential deal to break a Brexit logjam.

Britain had originally been scheduled to reach a deal with the EU by March 29.
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British House of Lords okays bill to avoid no-deal Brexit on April 12

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The British House of Lords on Monday approved a bill in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit on April 12, the latest date for Britain to leave the European Union (EU).

The bill that would force British Prime Minister Theresa May to request a Brexit extension rather than leave the EU with no deal has cleared a major hurdle as it was passed in the House of Lords.

The passage of the bill means the authority of May’s government was further weakened as it would give MPs a chance to make legally binding changes to her requested departure date during a debate in the parliament on Tuesday.

The bill, proposed by Yvette Cooper, will now be sent back to the House of Commons where MPs will need to agree to amendments to the bill made in the House of Lords.

If MPs in the House of Commons agree, the bill will be granted royal assent and becomes law.

However, if MPs disagree or suggest alternative changes, the bill will then be sent back to the House of Lords for further debate.

Despite attempts to derail the bill with filibustering, the Article 50-extending motion was passed on Monday.

After the announcement, Cooper tweeted: "Thank you to Lords for working so swiftly on this to help prevent our country stumbling into a damaging No Deal in just four days time."

The House of Lords amended the bill to give the British government more flexibility on the length of the extension.

Pro-Brexit peers delivered long speeches designed to eat up debating time and prevent the bill from completing the necessary stages in time on Friday.

Several Tories were accused by the opposition of trying to "thwart" the will of the elected House of Commons, which passed the bill last Wednesday, by forcing a series of unsuccessful votes aimed at delaying the bill for greater scrutiny.
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UK government in late night talks with opposition party to find Brexit breakthrough

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- As British Prime Minister Theresa May held individual phone talks with leaders of European Union states Monday, negotiations to find a Brexit breakthrough resumed between her Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party.

The stakes have been raised in the quest to agree a deal between the two big political parties in Britain as a Friday departure deadline date looms.

Downing Street said government ministers had contacted the opposition Labour Party to pave the way for technical discussions Monday evening.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn complained talks between both sides have so far yielded no change in May’s so-called red lines. Labour wants May to agree a deal that keeps Britain linked to the European Customs Union.

Media in London quoted sources close to the government indicating May had not accepted Labour’s customs union demand, while pro-Brexit Conservative politicians fear such a link would undermine Brexit.

Corbyn said: "The exchanges with the government have been serious, but our shadow cabinet expressed frustration that the prime minister has not yet moved off her red lines so we can reach a compromise."

An emergency summit of European Union member state leaders takes place in Brussels Wednesday where May is expected to detail fresh plans aimed at ending the impasse in the British parliament.

Her aim is to win support to agree to an extension of Britain’s departure date until June 30.

On Tuesday May travels to Europe for separate talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin and Paris respectively.

It is part of May’s plan to speak with all 27 European leaders ahead of Wednesday’s crunch summit meeting. May also spoke Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

In the unelected House of Lords, politicians Monday night backed the bill introduced in the House of Commons by Labour MP Yvette Cooper to prevent Britain leaving the EU with no deal.

The leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom told MPs that if the bill receives Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth there will be a government motion Tuesday asking the British Parliament to approve the May’s request to the EU to delay Brexit.

Across the Irish Sea, talks took place Monday in Dublin between Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Speaking later to journalists, Barnier said the EU could be much more ambitious in the future trade relationship if Britain were to drop its red lines.

Barnier welcomed May’s decision to hold cross-party talks with the main opposition Labour Party, adding:

"There are intensive cross-party discussions happening in London as we speak.

"We all hope these talks produce a positive outcome.

"I have said many times before that we can be much more ambitious in our future relationship with the UK."

"The political declaration allows for a range of outcomes, including a customs union.

"We are ready to make this clear if it helps and the work can be done extremely quickly."

Varadkar said he and Barnier exchanged views on the length of a possible extension for Britain.

He said: "I look forward to discussing it further with my EU counterparts at the European Council on Wednesday.

"There will be of course different views but I am confident we can reach agreement."

Britain also started making formal arrangements Monday for the country to take part in next month’s European Parliament elections, but the government said it hoped a Brexit deal could be reached to avoid Britain having to elect Euro MPs (MEPs).
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European Union hopes for positive outcome of UK cross-party discussions

DUBLIN (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) hopes that the ongoing cross-party discussions in Britain will produce a positive outcome, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said here on Monday.

Barnier made his remark at a press briefing following his meeting with the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

"As you all know, there are intensive cross-party discussions ongoing in London....We all hope these talks will produce a positive outcome," said Barnier.

He said that "the Political Declaration provides for a range of outcomes including a customs union. We are ready to make this clearer if it helps and its work can be done extremely quickly".

The Political Declaration is a legally none-binding document on the future relationship between the EU and Britain after Britain exits from the EU.

Barnier said that the most important aim of his trip to Ireland, the fifth of its kind for him as a chief Brexit negotiator of the EU, is to take stock of the latest developments in London and to discuss the summit meeting of the European Council convened by its president Donald Tusk in Brussels on Wednesday.

The upcoming EU leaders’ meeting will decide whether the latest request by the British Prime Minister Theresa May to seek a further extension to the Brexit date to June 30 should be granted or not.

Barnier said that during his meetings with the Irish PM and other senior Irish officials they also discussed what would happen in Ireland in a possible no-deal scenario.

He said "our goal is to protect the Good Friday Agreement, peace on this island and integrity of the single market".

He admitted that to achieve such a goal is not an easy task, but he said that "We are confident that we will find operational solutions."

"One thing is certain whatever happens the EU will stand fully behind Ireland. You will have our full support," he said, adding that "the backstop is currently the only solution we’ve found to maintain the status quo on the island of Ireland."

The backstop refers to a temporary arrangement to ensure that no hard border will occur between Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland after Brexit until and unless a better alterative is found.

"If the UK will have to leave the EU without a deal, let me (be) very clear, we will not discuss anything with the UK until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as for citizens’ rights and the financial settlement," he warned, adding that the EU 27 member states will remain fully united as they have been from the very beginning of the Brexit negotiations.

Irish Prime Minister Varadkar, in his speech at the press briefing, expressed his thanks for the solidarity that Barnier and the EU have showed for Ireland over the Brexit issue.

He reiterated his government’s stand that Ireland is open to extending the Brexit deadline to allow talks in the UK to reach their conclusions so long as Theresa May’s government has a clear plan that is focused on a future relationship with the EU rather than trying to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations.

"What we want to avoid is an extension that just allows for more indecision and more uncertainty," he told the local media prior to his Monday’s meeting with Barnier.
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How prepared is European Commission for no-deal Brexit?

BRUSSELS (Xinhua) -- European leaders have warned that a no-deal Brexit, while not their wish, is now "very likely", as Britain is still frenziedly seeking an orderly exit days before April 12, the end of the first Brexit extension, and some EU officials have insisted that they are ready for no-deal. Is that true? And what’s EU’s Brexit preparedness?

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, has published 90 Brexit preparedness notices, ranging from aviation safety to customs rules, which advise European citizens, business, and organizations on how to prepare for the withdrawal of the UK, including specific information about a no-deal scenario.

The Commission has also approved over 40 legislative initiatives or legal acts that are either already in force, under negotiation with other EU institutions, or in the process of being implemented.

What happens to EU businesses that trade with the UK?

Without a deal, trade between Britain and the European Union will revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, impacting European businesses trade with the country as customs procedures are reintroduced.

The European Commission is advising businesses in Europe that the movement of goods to the UK will require export declarations, and that movements of excise goods may require additional electronic administrative documents.

According to the Commission, goods entering the EU from the UK will be subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) charges by member states, while goods exported to the UK will be exempt from VAT. The Commission has also warned that rules for the declaration and payment of VAT will change, including for supplies of services, as will the rules for cross-border VAT refunds.

Within the EU, import and export licences issued by the UK will no longer be valid, as well as any other authorizations for customs simplifications or procedures.

To help EU businesses prepared for Brexit, the European Commission has provided a customs guide for EU businesses.

Will transport be affected between EU and UK?

Legislation has entered into force, following approval by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, for temporary measures to allow air, road, and rail transport to continue with only minor disruptions in the case of a "no deal" scenario.

The measures are contingent on the UK maintaining certain safety are regulatory standards, and limited in duration: air rules will be applicable until March 30, 2020, road traffic and freight regulations until Dec. 31, 2019, and rules for rail transport and freight until nine months after the rules entering into force.

The North Sea-Mediterranean Core Network Corridor, one of nine core corridors in the Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) Network, and which runs from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Marseille, France, has been realigned following the Council of the European Union and European Parliament approval in order to include new maritime routes between Ireland and Northern France.

Satellite navigation systems are also being protected, as the European Commission has been in the process of moving back-up systems for its Galileo Global Satellite Navigation System from British territories to EU member states. According to the European Commission, Galileo sensor sites in the British territories of the Ascension and Falkland Islands are being removed.

The system, which the Commission reports to have served positioning and timing services to some 600 million users since 2016, should have the capacity to continue operating smoothly without the two stations, which under security protocols cannot be held "in the territory of third countries".

Will visas be necessary for travel between the EU and the UK?

Even in the case of a no-deal, British citizens should not be required to obtain visas for short visits to the EU of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, following the European Parliament’s backing on last Thursday of legislation proposing a reciprocal visa waiver.

The waiver will be applicable in all EU member states, except for the Republic of Ireland, which has its own bilateral agreements for visa-free travel with the UK, and will also apply in Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).

The legislation insists on reciprocity, however, and will only be applicable if London introduces similar visa-free travel rules for EU citizens in the UK. To enter into force in the case of a no-deal, the legislation will need to be formally accepted by the Council of the European Union and published in the Official Journal of the EU before April 12.

What happens to British nationals living in the EU?

As part of the preparations for a no-deal Brexit, EU member states are developing legislation in order to allow British citizens legally residing in the EU to continue residing legally. According to the European Commission, these preparations are ongoing, and each member state is preparing national legislation and procedures.

The French government, for example, has passed a national ordinance which will proposes a maximum 12-month grace period in which British citizens can continue living in France without a residence permit. This will allow British citizens up to a year to receive necessary permits, according to their situations, but also under the condition of reciprocity for French citizens in the UK.

Similar measures are being developed by other member states, with differences in duration for grace periods, and procedures to be followed. Germany is currently proposing an initial 3-month grace period, possibly extendable by an additional 6-months, whereas Spain is proposing a 21-month grace period.

What other preparedness measures are being taken?

A wide range of other initiatives and measures are being taken by Brussels in order to limit the disruption of a disorderly no-deal Brexit. These include continued funding and support for the PEACE program in Northern Ireland, continuations of the ERASMUS+ study exchange program for EU and British students currently in the program, compensation for impacted industries such as fishing, and continued eligibility for UK beneficiaries of EU funding so long as the United Kingdom honors its financial obligations. What remains to be seen is what the EU has not been able to anticipate.

             

 

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