Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond reiterated his call to consider proposals for a second referendum on Brexit, while acknowledging that both the UK and the European Union are exasperated by the deadlock, as there’s little visibility on the next steps ahead of a key summit on Wednesday.
“I understand that EU colleagues are somewhat fed up that the process has taken as long as it has,” Hammond told reporters in Bucharest ahead of a meeting with his counterparts from the bloc. “We are also fed up that we haven’t been able to complete this earlier,” he said, adding that discussions between his government and the opposition Labour party are ongoing and every “possibility” is open.
Asked about the prospect of a second plebiscite on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, Hammond said that “we should try to complete this process in Parliament but we should be open to make suggestions that others have made.” He also didn’t exclude the prospect of another round of indicative votes at the House of Commons next week, though he signaled this will depend on the outcome of the discussions between the UK’s two biggest parties.
EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Wednesday to debate a British request for a further delay to the country’s withdrawal from the bloc to June 30. The EU is wary of granting another extension - especially a short one - if there’s no prospect that the House of Commons approves the existing exit treaty, struck last November, or tables an acceptable alternative.
After the UK Parliament has failed to do either over successive votes in the past months, “clear and substantial developments will be needed to convince us that another extension should be granted,” Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Loeger said in Bucharest on Saturday. “At the moment, we don’t see that.