The British minister responsible for Brexit negotiations has admitted that the country and the European Union may fail to meet the self-imposed October deadline for striking an exit deal.
The news of a potential delay is only the latest setback for the Brexit process, which has been subjected to several transition periods, fudges, and extensions since the British public voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.
Speaking to a House of Lords select committee on Brexit negotiations progress Wednesday, Brexit minister Dominic Raab said negotiations to sign a so-called divorce deal might not hit the deadline, remarking there is a “possibility it may creep beyond that”. But nevertheless, the Theresa May ally appeared to be remaining optimistic.
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Raab said: “I think it is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead up to the October council — and the possibility that it may creep beyond that — we want to see some renewed energy.
“We’re bringing the ambition and the substance of our white paper on the future relationship and also I think some pragmatism to try and go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides interests. We need that to be matched obviously, it’s a negotiation.”
Britain and the EU aim to hammer out an agreement on divorce terms and future trade by a European Council summit in October so that it can be approved by individual EU countries before the UK leaves the bloc on March 29. But talks have stalled, and the UK has ramped up planning for a “no deal” Brexit.
Raab told a House of Lords committee on Wednesday that the two sides were “aiming for the October council, but there is some measure of leeway”.
He said: “I’m confident that a deal is within our sights.”
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The comments to the Lords committee — Raab’s first since he took over the ministerial role from David Davis — come among mounting opposition to the so-called Chequers plan 0ver which Raab’s predecessor resigned. Also leaving the cabinet over the Prime Minister’s plan to deliver a Brexit in name only was Boris Johnson, who launched a major attack against the proposed deal and the EU itself Sunday.
Writing in the Telegraph, Johnson said the European Union was setting Britain up to be a punished example to any other nations who would dare reclaim their sovereignty, and the obvious route forward was to “Chuck Chequers”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report