Brexit: May insists UK can still exit EU by end of next month
She stressed the importance of the cross-party talks that have been taking place between ministers and their Labour counterparts, and said she hoped they could reach agreement in the coming days.
“However challenging it may be politically, I profoundly believe that in this unique situation where the house is deadlocked, it is incumbent on both frontbenches to seek to work together to deliver what the British people voted for. And I think that the British people expect their politicians to do just that when the national interest demands it.”
She insisted that if MPs could pass a deal before 22 May, Britain could still avoid having to participate in European parliament elections and leave the EU at the end of that month.
Tory Brexiters have reacted with anger to the renewed delay, with the veteran Conservative MP Bill Cash responding to May’s statement by calling it an “abject surrender” and asking her if she would resign.
May blamed the Brexiters’ own failure to vote for her deal for the decision to ask for a delay.
In his response to the prime minister’s statement, Jeremy Corbyn blamed her failure to seek consensus for the fact that no deal that can command a majority in parliament has yet been reached.
“If the government is serious, the red lines must move and we must see a real compromise,” he said.
He acknowledged the negotiations were “serious, detailed and ongoing”, but warned that some ministers, including the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, appeared to be resisting the necessary compromises.
May said she had not wanted to ask for a second Brexit extension, and acknowledged the public have become increasingly exasperated with the inability of MPs to reach agreement.
“I know the whole country is intensely frustrated,” she said. “I know too that this whole debate is putting members on all sides of the house under immense pressure and causing uncertainty across the country.
“So let us use the opportunity of the recess to reflect on the decisions that will have to be made swiftly on our return after Easter. And let us then resolve to find a way through this impasse.”