May says will speed up ratification of Brexit deal if time is tight


Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May reacts during her meeting with Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain, February 11, 2019. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – The government will seek to speed up the ratification of its Brexit deal with the European Union if time gets too tight to pass legislation before Britain’s March 29 exit day, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday.

May told ministers earlier on Tuesday that parliament, which last month roundly rejected her Brexit deal, would not vote on a revised deal this week. Media have reported a fresh vote is not expected until late February at the earliest.

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.

After it has voted to support her deal, parliament must also pass a law — the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — formally ratifying the agreement.

Asked by a lawmaker whether an extension was now inevitable due to a legal requirement that the government lay a treaty before parliament 21 sitting days before it can be ratified, May said the government may fast track that process.

“While we will follow normal procedure if we can, where there is insufficient time remaining … we will make provision in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, with parliament’s consent, to ensure that we are enable to ratify on time to guarantee our exit in an orderly way,” May said.

The 21-day period is usually intended to give parliament time to study an agreement but it will already have had plenty of time to do so as the deal was reached last year, May said.

Several previous major bills on Britain’s relationship with Europe have taken more than 30 sitting days to pass. After this week, there are just 26 sitting days left before March 29.

“I am sure that when a meaningful vote has been agreed in this house then every member … will want to ensure that they are able to operate on a timetable that enables us to leave at the end of the two year period agreed,” May added.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Michael Holden

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