THERESA May has today been forced to deny that she’s secretly planning to delay Brexit after a bombshell ‘leak’ revealing the PM wants to run the clock down.
Last night Theresa May’s chief Brexit negotiator was overheard in a bar saying she will threaten MPs with a huge delay if they don’t back her deal next month.
Olly Robbins said he expected the PM to take Brexit talks right down to the wire next month, ITV revealed.
And then she would present MPs with a simple choice between backing a revised deal or extending the Article 50 process for a significant period of time beyond March 29.
But this lunchtime the PM insisted: “The Government’s position is the same.
“This House voted to trigger Article 50, that had a two-year timeline. That ends on March 29.
“We want to leave with a deal, and that’s what we are working for.”
However, she pointedly refused to say she wouldn’t extend Article 50 and push back our exit date.
And she brushed it off, saying it was “what someone said to someone else as overheard by someone else in a bar”.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay dismissed the warnings too, refused to comment on conversations “in a noisy bar”.
He told the BBC: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that we are committed to leaving on March 29.”
And he said it would “not be in anyone’s interest to have an extension without any clarity”.
Mr Barclay said: “They have obviously elections for the Parliament and a Commission that will be formed at the end of May, so there is no desire on the European side to see what one described to me as an ‘extension in darkness’, where there is no clarity as to why we are extending.”
And Tory Party Vice Chairman Chris Philp told Newsnight last night that Mr Robbins could have had a drink or two before he made the alleged comments.
He said: “What a civil servant might speculate in a bar after a few drinks is frankly not that important…
“What matters is the prime minister’s policy to get a deal done … Every European negotiation always goes down to the wire. This is no different.”
But Brexiteer Nigel Farage said Mr Robbins should be sacked for his comments.
What is the plot to delay Brexit and what does it mean?
THERESA May still faces a huge fight to get her deal through Parliament.
But some MPs also don’t want her to put off Brexit and prolong the uncertainty for any longer.
The supposed plan Olly Robbins was overheard discussing would put pressure on MPs when her deal comes back to the Commons later this month – or possibly in March.
The PM could tell them that if they don’t vote for her deal, then Brexit could be put on ice and delayed.
That would only further prolong the uncertainty as businesses and Brits will still have no idea what’s going to happen.
There’s no guarantee that it would be accepted by the EU without a clear plan for what Mrs May would do, however.
A delay could also give time for a second Brexit referendum too, which could keep us IN the bloc.
But the PM might not be able to get anything more out of the bloc even if she gave herself more time.
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And Leave Means Leave chairman John Longworth said Mr Robbins had overstepped the mark with his remarks and questioned “where his interests lie”.
He said: “If it is true that Britain’s Chief Negotiator was carelessly briefing in a bar on the UK position in the Brexit negotiations, it clearly demonstrates the casual overreach of Olly Robbins.
It is not for a civil servant to be speculating publicly on any matter, let alone one of such national importance and it is not for a civil servant to be formulating policy publicly.”
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