'We need to end this uncertainty' UK PM tells backbencher panel on Brexit

'We need to end this uncertainty' UK PM tells backbencher panel on Brexit
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British Prime Minister Theresa May told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that talks with the opposition to break the Brexit deadlock have been "constructive" and "meaningful" and that they aim to end "this uncertainty" as soon as possible.

May was being grilled by the Liaison Committee, comprised of the most senior backbenchers in parliament.

Earlier, MPs largely ignored Brexit in the first PMQs in three weeks.

It comes as May's Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party continue talks on finding a Brexit deal that could be passed by MPs.

'An open mind'

"We know that we need to end this uncertainty and do it as soon as possible, and I hope that a deal can be done. We have certainly approached this with an open mind," she said.

She described the talks as "constructive" and "meaningful" and added that should they fail to strike a deal, MPs will then be invited to vote on a number of options.

She reiterated that her preferred option would be for MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement — which they've rejected three times — and said lawmakers now have four options: leaving with a deal, a no-deal Brexit, holding a referendum or revoking Article 50.

She added that the option of a second referendum had not been proposed by the government or the Labour Party.

"My view about a second referendum is that we should get on with delivering the first referendum," she said.


Asked whether the government has changed its position on being part of the Customs Union, May dodged and said cross-party talks have revealed that there is "a greater commonality in terms of some of the benefits of the customs union".

She refuted that a technological solution for frictionless trade had been ruled out and said the UK has the opportunity to be "world-leading" and that it is "important for us to be looking at new models that are available".

She added, however, that it was important for the UK to have an "independent trade policy" and that it remains "possible" for the UK and the EU to negotiate a trade agreement before the end of the proposed transition period scheduled on December 31, 2020.

But she left the door open for a longer-than-expected transition period, explaining: "the Withdrawal Agreement has within it the possibility of an extension of that implementation period."

'As soon as possible'

The British leader said she was "reluctant" to provide the committee with a date for a fourth vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, adding however that she would "absolutely" prefer for the country to leave the European Union earlier than October 31.

She explained that the UK can leave the EU at the end of the month in which the deal is ratified.

'Blinded by ideology'

Earlier in the day, MPs prioritised quizzing May on social issues when she addressed parliament.

It was the first time May spoke in the House of Commons since April 11 after she had just secured another extension — until October 31 — from EU leaders to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn chose to attack the government on its record on crime, poverty and social mobility. It comes as English and Northern Irish voters prepare to go to the polls on Thursday for local elections.

But Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Westminster alluded to Brexit briefly, accusing May of being "blinded by ideology" and creating a "hostile environment" for EU students in Scotland by only granting three-year visas when Scottish universities' courses usually take four years.

May replied it is "a bit rich" for SNP to accuse her of being ideological and tackled SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon's recent announcement that "it's time for Scotland to become independent."