United Kingdom premier wants more time to solve Brexit impasse

REUTERS  PETER NICHOLLS

Meanwhile, the cost of the growing uncertainty is piling up as business investment all but vanishes and the economy slows to its weakest growth rate in almost a decade.

"The talks are at a crucial stage", May added.

The U.K.is on course to leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal unless May can convince the bloc to amend the divorce deal she agreed to previous year and get it approved by British lawmakers.

May went to Brussels last week in an attempt to secure changes to the so-called backstop arrangement created to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Opponents, including dozens of Ms.

Verhofstadt said "in the last week, I met Prime Minister May, Brexit Secretary Barclay, (Cabinet Office Minister) David Lidington and other British officials".

On the question of the backstop - an insurance policy to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland - the station said Robbins had outlined a strategy to satisfy May's Conservative lawmakers.

May updated parliament following a series of last-gasp meetings held in Belfast, Brussels, and Dublin despite European Union leaders' insistence that they will not renegotiate the deal they had already struck with her. The final vote on whether Britain leaves the European Union on March 29 with a deal would be pushed back into March.

Parliamentary experts have said that even if May succeeds in getting a deal approved by lawmakers, Britain may need to request an extension to the Article 50 exit negotiation period in order to approve necessary legislation.

Mr Corbyn said: "The prime minister is playing for time and playing with people's jobs, our economic security and the future of our industry".

However, the European Union has repeatedly said the withdrawal agreement, sealed by the EU-27 leaders after 18 months of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, is not going to be reopened.

The EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Monday the bloc would agree to tweak the political declaration on post-Brexit EU-UK ties that forms part of the exit package, to reflect a plan for a closer future relationship that could remove the need for the backstop.

If no agreement is reached by February 26, then MPs will get more non-binding votes on Brexit options the following day.

A senior member of the European parliament later ramped up the rhetoric, comparing pro-Brexit MPs to French revolutionaries.

The two countries have signed a post-Brexit trade deal that would cover most of the existing agreements that govern relations with the EU. On Monday, figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed the economy shrunk by 0.4 per cent in December and that it grew by 1.4 per cent a year ago, the slowest rate since 2009.

In the fourth quarter, British business investment fell 1.4 percent for the fourth straight quarterly decline - the first time that has happened since the 2008 financial crisis.

"Opposing no deal does not rule it out".

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, finds dark clouds on the horizon in a speech on Tuesday, but sees a potential upside to Brexit. "You have got to recognize this could go quite badly". Carney said after a speech in London.

"Both sides want a Brexit deal that supports ongoing friendship between UK/EU/France so patience and goodwill on backstop now the critical ingredient", he tweeted.

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