May heads to Berlin and Paris for Brexit talks as MPs consider delay

Theresa May was heading for top level Brexit talks in Berlin and Paris as Parliament again moved to take more control of EU withdrawal.

MPs and peers backed a new law to extend the Brexit process and seek to avoid a no-deal exit from the EU on Friday.

The move places a legal requirement on the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50.

Mrs May had already outlined plans to ask the EU for an extension to June 30, but MPs could now seek to amend the date when the Commons debates the issue on Tuesday.

The PM is embarking on a diplomatic flurry which sees her meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday ahead of a crunch EU summit on Wednesday.

All 27 remaining EU heads of government must agree an extension if the UK is to avoid the default position of a no-deal Brexit on April 12.

The Commons backed a series of Lords amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 5) Act after it was rushed through both Houses of Parliament.

The cross-party move brought forward by Yvette Cooper and others led to Mrs May tabling a Commons motion for debate on Tuesday setting June 30 as the extension date.

The Act was amended by peers to state that nothing in it prevented the Prime Minister from “seeking or agreeing” an extension, provided it was not earlier than May 22.

The move came as the Government and Labour were holding talks on trying to break the Brexit deadlock.

After officials from the two sides met on Monday, the fresh round of talks will include Mrs May’s defacto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, and Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Government to be more flexible regarding red line issues in the talks.

In a bid to end the deadlock with Labour, the Prime Minister is considering offering MPs a vote on whether to hold a referendum on any deal agreed on Brexit, according to the Daily Telegraph.

European Council President Donald Tusk, (Rick Findler/PA)
European Council president Donald Tusk (Rick Findler/PA)

Senior backbench Tories visited Mrs May in Downing Street on Monday and it is understood concern was expressed about the possibility of agreeing a customs union as a price for a deal with Labour.

The cross-party discussions are taking place as the Tories launch a selection process for candidates to stand in European Parliament elections next month.

The Government tabled an order enabling the elections to be held in Britain if the country has not left the EU by the time they are due to take place on May 23.

The Cabinet Office said the elections would be cancelled automatically if the UK left before then.

European Council president Donald Tusk has recommended a one-year extension to the Brexit process, with a break clause allowing an earlier departure if a withdrawal deal is ratified in Westminster.

Mrs May’s travel plans mean that she will not open the Commons debate on Article 50 extension for the Government on Tuesday.

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