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EU could extend talks if MPs reject Brexit deal

The UK is “heading for a softer Brexit” after Theresa May’s defeat in Parliament and the phase one deal, a key EU leader has said.

Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, claimed the Tory revolt to give MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final divorce package “complicates things”.

But he added the EU would be willing to extend the negotiation timetable.

Speaking just after a bilateral meeting with Mrs May at the EU Council summit in Brussels, Mr Muscat told Sky News: “We are heading towards a softer version (of Brexit).

“It is pretty obvious now we are converging to a more sensible approach – that more sensible approach is alignment.”

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat said the vote ‘complicates things’

He said the UK should now “make its request” to the leaders of the other 27 EU member nations for an end-state, adding: “The PM knows exactly what she wants.”

Asked if that was “long-term full alignment”, he told Sky News: “I think that’s where we are heading…

“That’s what I think Europe prefers. I’m not sure that’s what the UK Government wants to say it prefers – but I think we are heading there.”

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On the Commons vote on Wednesday, which 11 Tory MPs backed, Mr Muscat said: “It complicates things. This amendment complicates things in terms of a timetable – it doesn’t make things easier but would be put in to the equation.”

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And when asked what would happen if MPs ended up rejecting the final deal, he revealed: “I don’t think that any issue of any extension would be on the European side.

“If you asked European colleagues if we had to stop the clocks, we’d say yes. I’m not sure the British side would be too keen.”

He added the EU27 leaders were “a bit disappointed” that soon after last week’s phase one deal “there were different interpretations” from Cabinet ministers.

Brexit Secretary David Davis was criticised for calling the agreement a “statement of intent”.

It comes ahead of a vote by EU27 leaders expected to formally agree that Brexit negotiations can progress to their second phase – on future EU-UK relations.

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