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Theresa May tells voters 'I am on your side' in Brexit announcement

PUBLISHED: 20:57 20 March 2019 | UPDATED: 21:56 20 March 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement about Brexit in Downing Street, London. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement about Brexit in Downing Street, London. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Theresa May has rounded on MPs and blamed them for failing to agree a way to leave the EU.

In a televised address from 10 Downing Street, Theresa May said that it was “a matter of great personal regret for me” that Brexit will not go ahead on March 29.

She blamed MPs for failing to agree a means to implement the result of the 2016 referendum and said she believes voters just want this stage of the Brexit process to be over. And she told voters: “I am on your side.”

Mrs May said: “Of this, I am absolutely sure: You the public have had enough. You are tired of the infighting, you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime.

“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side. It is now time for MPs to decide.”

Mr May will go to Brussels on Thursday to make a formal request to the other 27 EU leaders for an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.

Earlier, European Council president Donald Tusk said he believed a short delay “would be possible” after he spoke to the prime minister by phone.

But he said that the extension - which must be agreed unanimously by the EU27 - was likely to be conditional on Mrs May succeeding in forcing her twice-rejected Brexit deal through parliament.

The PM made the request in a letter to Mr Tusk exactly 1,000 days after the 2016 referendum which delivered a 52pc-48pc majority to quit the EU.

MORE: ‘Disingenuous’ and ‘an outrage’ - Norfolk MPs react to Theresa May’s Brexit statement

Speaking behind a lectern in 10 Downing Street, Mrs May said MPs had so far done “everything possible” to avoid making a decision on the way forward.

She warned that an extended delay mean staging “bitter and divisive” elections to the European Parliament at a time the country needed bringing back together.

“I passionately hope MPs will find a way to back the deal I have negotiated with the EU.

“I will continue to work night and day to secure the support of my colleagues, the DUP and others for this deal. But I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30.”

In his statement, Mr Tusk said it should be possible for EU leaders meeting in Brussels to approve an extension to Article 50, although the “question remains open” as to the duration.

He said it should then be possible to finalise the deal through the “written procedure” without the need for another summit - provided it secured the backing of MPs.

But after the tumultuous events of recent weeks he appeared to acknowledge the difficulties facing the Prime Minister, describing the hopes of success as “frail, even illusory”.

“Although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution,” he said.

“We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events and I am confident that also now we will not lack the same patience and goodwill at this most critical point in this process.”

If the delay is approved by the EU leaders, Mrs May will rush legislation through both Houses of Parliament next week to remove the March 29 leaving date from Brexit laws.

At a stormy session of Prime Minister’s Questions she told MPs she intended to table her Withdrawal Agreement for a third time in the Commons, in the hope of overturning massive defeats inflicted on it in January and March.

Aides declined to name a date for the third “meaningful vote” - known in Westminster as MV3 - but said it would happen “as soon as possible”.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn was criticised after pulling out of talks with other opposition party leaders and the Prime Minister after members of the breakaway Independent Group turned up to the meeting.

Chuka Umunna, the Independent Group spokesman, said it was “extraordinary behaviour in a national crisis” by the Labour leader.

A Labour spokesman said it was “not the meeting that had been agreed” and that they were in discussions with No 10 about a separate bilateral meeting between Mr Corbyn and Mrs May.

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