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The European Union offered to extend the deadline to May 22 if British Parliament approves Brexit next week.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has accepted an offer from the European Union (EU) to extend Brexit negotiations, following numerous rejections by the British parliament of the withdrawal agreement she negotiated in December 2018.
Following Britain’s decision to the leave the European Union in 2016, the UK parliament triggered ‘Article 50’ that bound the government by law to leave the EU by the 29 of March 2019. In that time, Theresa May negotiated a deal that set out the terms of Britain’s relationship to the EU after the UK official exits the bloc.
However, her deal was rejected by the house of commons numerous times, by all parties, including many within her own party. Pro-Brexit critics within the ruling Conservative party were worried that the terms of the exit still left Britain too tied Europe, especially the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ that would leave British territory in the north of Ireland within the E.U.’s custom union and under some Single Market rules.
However, without a ‘backstop’, there could be return of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which would be a violation of Britain’s Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to the decades long civil war over Ireland’s independence. Ireland’s political party, Sinn Fein, have called for a referendum on Irish unification in that scenario, which risks reinitiating the conflict over independence.
The opposition also criticised May’s deal. The Labour Party argued that leaving the Customs Union would place jobs at risk, especially in manufacturing that relies on frictionless trade with Europe. Other opposition parties, such as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have said they will oppose any Brexit deal, and instead call for second referendum to reverse the Brexit process.
If no agreement could be passed Britain would have to face a ‘no deal’ brexit that could mean food and medicine shortages, as Britain would be left without any trade deals with Europe, meaning an overnight imposition of strict border controls and tariffs.
To avoid a damaging ‘no deal’ scenario, the EU has agreed a short extension, so that another agreement more favorable to the UK parliament could be agreed upon.
Labour still remain critical of May’s negotiations. Shortly before the announcement, Labour Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, wrote on twitter: “Whatever happens in the coming days, one thing is clear: the Prime Minister has no mandate and no right to threaten our country with a no deal Brexit.
“If she is unwilling to show leadership at a time of national crisis, then Parliament must be given the chance to do so,” Starmer said.