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British decisions on Brexit more important than extra time, says EU's Barnier

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier addresses a press conference in Brussels on 19 March 2018.
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier addresses a press conference in Brussels on 19 March 2018. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

A decision from British lawmakers over the withdrawal deal is more important than negotiating an extension to Brexit, the EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday. Barnier told a press conference in Austria that the Brexit process was at a “grave moment”.

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“We need above all a decision, it’s more important than extra time,” Barnier said, according to reports from the AFP news agency.

The UK is expected to leave the EU on 29 March, however British MPs in January rejected a withdrawal deal tabled by Prime Minister Theresa May.

A vote in the British parliament on Tuesday resulted in May having to gain support for an altered deal by 12 March. Otherwise MPs are expected on 13 and 14 March to vote for leaving at the end of March with no deal or deciding on delaying Brexit altogether.

“Any extension would be linked to the question of what to do with the time,” Barnier said, AFP reported.

The EU’s chief negotiator also talked about the possibility of an extension if there were “new British choices”. However, he pointed out that looming European elections would mean the UK would have to legally participate in the polls.

Barnier once again repeated that the withdrawal agreement could not be changed, describing it as “finished” and something that had been worked on “with the British, not against them.”

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