Brexit blab: Chief negotiator overheard in bar suggesting 'long delay' to Article 50

Brexit blab: Chief negotiator overheard in bar suggesting 'long delay' to Article 50
Copyright Reuters
By Rachael Kennedy
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The UK's Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar, reportedly saying British MPs may be given a the choice of backing May's Brexit deal, or seeing a 'long extension' to Article 50.

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The UK's chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins has reportedly suggested that British MPs are to be served an ultimatum in March: either accept UK Prime Minister Theresa May's deal, or expect a long extension to Article 50.

Robbins' comments were reported exclusively by ITV news correspondent Angus Walker, who said he overheard Robbins discussing Brexit plans in a bar in Brussels.

“Got to make [MPs] believe that the week beginning end of March... Extension is possible but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one," Robbins said, according to the reporter.

He also was overheard discussing the Irish backstop as a bridge to the UK's wider trade relationship with the EU, and how this bridge eventually transformed into a "safety net."

"The big clash all along is the safety net," Robbins was reported as saying. “We agreed a bridge but it came out as a safety net.”

But several politicians have since played down Robbins' comments, particularly on that suggestion that May winding down the time before launching the options, which was previously believed to have been deal, or no deal.

"We are committed to leaving on 29 March... any extension is not a unilateral decision," Brexit secretary Steve Barclay told the BBC's Today programme on Wednesday morning.

Similarly, former Brexit minister Steve Baker said Robbins was "likely to be appalled by this story."

"Officials advise. Ministers decide. What matters ultimately is the policy of the prime minister and the Cabinet."

"If the PM decides we are leaving on 29 March, deal or no deal, that will happen."

Euronews has reached out for comment.

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