Lawmakers say Britain should consider delaying EU exit

LONDON — Britain should seek to postpone its exit from the European Union if talks drag on during the next few months, an influential committee of lawmakers concluded Sunday.

The panel’s recommendation split its members, some of whom disowned the document, and illustrated the growing concerns in Parliament over the pace of the negotiations.

The report came before a summit meeting this week at which EU leaders are expected to agree, in principle, on a standstill transition period of slightly less than two years to prevent Britain’s economy from suffering the effects of a “cliff edge” departure from the bloc next March, when it is formally scheduled to quit.


But even that transition would be conditional on the success of broader discussions on the withdrawal, known as Brexit. The talks are due to end in the fall, but that deadline looks difficult to meet, particularly because of the complexity of avoiding the introduction of a hard border in Ireland.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Exiting the European Union concluded that if “substantial aspects” of the overall agreement were still left to be finalized in October, the British government should seek “a limited extension” of the time set out under Article 50.

That is a section of the treaty invoked last year by Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain setting a two-year deadline for withdrawal from the bloc.

The report, endorsed by a majority of the committee’s members, also argued for the flexibility to extend the transition period, if necessary, to prepare for the economic upheaval of Britain’s final departure.

But a group of lawmakers on the committee who are strong proponents of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union disowned the document. One, Jacob Rees-Mogg, wrote on Twitter that it “merely seeks to stop Brexit.”

Chaired by Hilary Benn, a former Cabinet minister for Labour, the committee noted that time was extremely short to resolve the web of complex issues that remain outstanding.


They include the need to avoid introducing a hard border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which will remain in the European Union.

“We are now at a critical stage in the negotiations, with just seven months left to reach agreement on a whole host of highly complex issues,” Benn said in a statement. It said the government “faces a huge task” in negotiating an agreement on future ties.

“In the short time that remains, it is difficult to see how it will be possible to negotiate a full, bespoke trade and market access agreement, along with a range of other agreements, including on foreign affairs and defense cooperation,” the document said.

It also said that the British Parliament would need “absolute clarity” on future ties, including arrangements for the border with Ireland.

New York Times