It is “no secret” that the EU likes to wait until the last minute to finish deals, David Davis informed members of the Brexit Select Committee this morning. He expects the same to happen to Britain’s negotiations over its terms of exit from the bloc. “In technical terms there is no reason why we cannot do this in the time available,” he said, “but we do have to have a degree of determination to achieve it.”
If negotiations go down to the wire, the deal could be approved at the very end of the time allowed under Article 50. That would mean, Mr Davis indicated to gasps from Remainers on the committee, that MPs might only get a vote after 29 March 2019, when Britain is set to take its first step out of the bloc and embarks – potentially – on its transition period. The Government prefers to call it an “implementation period”, which is fitting because it could end up being the time they use to have their Brexit deal ratified in European parliaments – which is necessary for it to take effect. The Department for Exiting the European Union have backed their boss up this afternoon, with a spokesman declaring that they “expect and intend” (but crucially not ‘guarantee’) for MPs able to vote before leaving.
Michel Barnier wants a deal to be done by next October, so that it has time to be ratified over the following months before March 2019. Theresa May tried to mollify MPs at PMQs today by telling them that she was “confident” the vote could happen in time. But, I point out online, that is only assured if the EU wants to agree a deal within the deadline. Mr Davis told MPs that the end of the negotiation will be “very high stress…very exciting for everyone watching.” Brexiteers may be excited about the result, but the stress is getting to other MPs.
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