‘Emergency zone’: Brexit vote may happen just weeks before March exit date

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The UK is gripped in the middle of a Brexit “emergency zone”, a business group leader has warned, as the government admitted MPs could vote on a new agreement less than a month before the UK leaves the EU.

Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the Confederation British Industry, told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal has “gone up” as the possibility of a deal getting through parliament “recedes”.

She added that fears of a no-deal Brexit are getting “much higher” as Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to get a new deal negotiated with Brussels that can get a majority in parliament.

It came as the government admitted MPs may not get the chance to vote on an agreement again before the start of next month – with the UK’s EU departure looming on 29 March.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire promised if that happened, MPs would get the chance to change the course of Brexit by voting on their own proposals.

He claimed that would give the public a “sense of assurance”.

Mrs May is considering a plan by Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate a new deal with Brussels in a bid to break the parliamentary deadlock.

If adopted, the Labour leader would instruct his backbenchers to vote it through, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth told Sky News.

But Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, remained adamant the prime minister could still get a deal through without Labour votes.

“We’ve already seen movement from the EU,” she told Sky News.

“They’ve already said they’re prepared to come back to the table and talk about the opportunities we’ve got.

“We’ve got three proposals on the table, so; the time limit, the unilateral exit mechanism, looking at alternative arrangements; and I believe Theresa May can get that deal.”

She twice refused to rule out resigning if the prime minister pivots to supporting a customs union with the EU.

Mrs May is pressing EU leaders to let her change the Irish backstop – the insurance policy to prevent a hard border reforming on the island of Ireland if a trade deal cannot be done to avert such a scenario.

Downing Street is considering calling for the UK to pull out of it unilaterally, instead of needing the permission of the EU, or putting a time limit on how long the backstop can apply for.

Former prime minister Tony Blair remains pushing the case for calling a referendum on the final terms of Brexit.

He told Sky News the question of Britain’s membership of the EU was “very open” because the country had “to know where we’re heading before we leave”.

(c) Sky News 2019: ‘Emergency zone’: Brexit vote may happen just weeks before March exit date

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