Theresa May’s government is not seeking to extend Article 50, according to U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay.
Asked three times if he denied a report in the Telegraph that U.K. officials are “putting out feelers” in Brussels about an extension, Barclay told the BBC’s Today program Tuesday morning: “Yes, I can be very clear that the government’s policy is to leave [the EU] on the 29th of March.”
The news comes ahead of a House of Commons vote on May’s Withdrawal Treaty, due next week, which the PM is expected to lose. The looming March 29 Brexit deadline has raised the prospect of the government needing to stop the clock on the Article 50 negotiating period in order to find a workable solution.
An EU diplomat said that “from our knowledge nothing has been offered” to May, adding that “everybody [is] waiting for the vote” in the Commons.
On his was into a meeting of EU ministers in the General Affairs Council in Brussels, junior Brexit minister Martin Callanan said: “We’re all focused in the government on winning parliamentary support in the vote that’s coming up next week, the prime minister will be updating Parliament tomorrow, and she will be talking about the existing clarifications, the reassurances that Parliament is seeking, that the backstop will not be permanent.”
“The policy of the government is that Article 50 will not be extended,” he added.
Asked about the potential for an extension, France’s EU Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said, “I don’t work on hypothesis … the current situation is complex enough, it hasn’t been asked by the British authorities so no ifs and whens.”
The EU has previously said that it would only consider an extension request from the U.K. if there was a tangible goal in mind, such as until a second EU referendum or after a general election.
Britain’s Digital Minister Margot James told the BBC Monday that an extension may be sought if May’s deal is voted down, but No. 10 later shot down her suggestion.
In a separate interview, Barclay told Sky News Tuesday morning that it is “illogical” for MPs to support amendments that restrict the government’s ability to make Brexit-related tax changes in the event of a no-deal divorce.
MPs will Tuesday afternoon vote on a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill that would limit the Treasury’s tax-raising powers unless there is either a Brexit deal, a decision to extend Article 50, or a vote in the Commons approving a no-deal Brexit.