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Lawmakers say UK should consider postponing Brexit

/ 08:15 PM March 18, 2018
Theresa May

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the Conservative Party’s Spring Forum in central London, Saturday, March 17, 2018. (Pool photo by SIMON DAWSON via AP)

LONDON — Britain should consider postponing Brexit because there may not be enough time to strike a deal with the European Union before the UK leaves the bloc a year from now, a key committee of British lawmakers said Sunday.

The House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee said if major aspects of the future relationship with the EU remain unsettled by October, Britain should seek a “limited extension“ of its EU membership.

Britain and the EU want a deal on future relations settled by the fall so national parliaments can approve it before Britain officially leaves the 28-nation bloc on March 29, 2019.

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In a report published Sunday, the lawmakers said a proposed transition period of about two years should be able to be extended if needed. The two sides have agreed in principle that Britain will continue to remain part of the bloc’s structures and rules until the end of 2020.

Seven pro-Brexit members of the 21-member, all-party committee refused to back the report, preparing an alternative version that took a more uncompromising tone toward the EU.

The majority-backed report said it is worrying that there has been “little progress“ in solving the key issue of how to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

Britain and the EU agree there must be no customs posts or other infrastructure along the all-but-invisible border, but the committee said Britain has yet to put forward credible proposals for how this could work.

“We know of no international border, other than the internal borders of the EU, that operates without checks and physical infrastructure,“ said the committee’s chairman, Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn.

The pro-Brexit dissenters’ alternative document accused the EU of taking an unhelpful approach to the border issue. They suggested that new technology and “streamlined“ customs arrangements can deliver a frictionless border.

Rather than having Britain seek to extend its EU membership, the minority group said the UK should walk away without a deal if talks bog down.

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