May ‘Flexible’ On Brexit Leaving Date

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DESPERATE to avoid a Tory Party split, Prime Minister May has agreed with her rebels to amend her EU Withdrawal Bill to include a ‘flexible’ leaving date.

The Brexit ‘war cabinet’, a sub-committee of senior ministers chaired by May, will meet today, with a meeting of the full Cabinet scheduled for tomorrow. To prevent a humiliating second House of Commons revolt on Wednesday over March 29 2019 being written into the government’s Brexit legislation, she has agreed to allow the date to be changed if negotiations with Brussels look set to stretch beyond that date.

Downing Street let it be known that the government is understood to be ‘looking closely’ at an amendment tabled by MPs including Remain supporter Sir Oliver Letwin and Bernard Jenkin. This came after some Tory Eurosceptics warning they will not accept arrangements which resemble continued EU membership during the transitional period.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was a leading voice in the referendum Leave campaign, argued that the UK cannot mirror EU law in the long term. Johnson said if the UK ended up being forced to mirror EU laws ‘we would have gone from being a member state to a vassal state’.

Speaking on yesterday’s Andrew Marr Show, Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott was asked whether Labour would back a Norway-style deal for the UK – access to the single market, in return for a financial contribution and accepting the majority of EU laws. She avoided the issue saying Labour was ‘not conducting this negotiation’ but it would not back anything ‘that damages jobs and the economy’.

Pressed on whether the UK may have to make payments to get access to the single market, she replied: ‘We may have to do so, but we have to see how the Tories’ negotiations go.’ Earlier Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘If the acquis (the body of EU law), the ECJ and free movement remain we would not be in an implementation period but would still be de facto in the EU.

‘I assume that Her Majesty’s Government will make its own proposals and not roll over in the way it did at the beginning of the process.’ Tory MP Peter Bone also raised his concerns, saying: ‘It would be an obvious extension of being in the EU for another couple of years, and would be close enough to the next election to stop us coming out. It’s looking like Remainers are winning the day – it’s all very concerning.’