Hilary Benn By Steve Punter (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Hilary Benn By Steve Punter (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Members of the all-party Brexit Select Committee have voted narrowly to propose that the government approaches the EU for an extension to the negotiating period!

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The Brexit Select Committee chairman, the former Labour cabinet minister Hilary Benn, has been backed by 12 other MPs on the 21 strong committee in calling for both the negotiation period and the transition period to be extended.

The eight Brexiteers on the Committee have responded by publishing their own 'minority report' and calling their colleagues on the committee the 'High Priests of Remain'.

Those calling for Brexit to be delayed include pro-EU Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock, Emma Reynolds and Pat McFadden, the SNP's Joanna Cherry and former Tory Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb, reports Sky News.

With the minority side including the likes of Tory Eurosceptics Jacob Rees-Mogg, Peter Bone, Sir Christopher Chope, Craig Mackinlay and former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale.

The Delayers say in the Committee's report that extending the current negotiating period would:

"…allow more time to negotiate a detailed Political Declaration and potentially more time to negotiate the treaties/agreements that will establish the Future Partnership before the start of the transition/implementation period, depending on the length of the extension.

And on extending the subsequent transition period they say:

If a 21-month transition/implementation period is insufficient time to conclude and ratify the treaties/agreements that will establish the Future Partnership or to implement the necessary technical and administrative measures along with any necessary infrastructure at the UK border, the only prudent action would be for the Government to seek a limited prolongation to avoid unnecessary disruption.

Now, in order to extend the 29th March 2019 Brexit negotiation deadline, the UK government would have to formally approach the EU with the request.

For its part, under the terms of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU would then have to gain the unanimous approval of all 27 member states to do so.

It is not a unilateral decision for the UK to take. It cannot be done with a quick phone call between ministers, or on the back of a fag-packet nor indeed can it be decided in closed and secret meetings – like most things in the EU seem to be.

Given the recent performance of its negotiators and top officials, do you really think that the EU is going to be reasonable and just say OK?

No! It will continue to play hard-ball. It would treat any such request as a sign of weakness and press home the perceived advantage. Can you imagine the demands that would be made of the UK before they would agree, with EU member states queuing up at our door with a list of goodies they each want for their yes vote.

If you want uncertainty thrown into the Brexit process then this is exactly the way to do it!

And most die-hard Remainers are fully aware of this and that's why they keep pushing it!

They know their actions may wreck the country for a few years but as far as they are concerned that is a price they are willing for you, the ordinary UK citizen to pay as long as we end up staying in the EU – at any cost to you!

So, I’m with Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg when he says of the report:

It’s a prospectus for the vassal state. It would keep us in the customs union and single market, which is an attempt to keep us in the EU by sleight of hand.

"It appears to have been written in the slough of despond, despairing and defeatist.”

And on to Russia, the three UKIP MEPs who were due to travel to Russia as part of a long standing European Parliamentary delegation to scrutinise today's Russian Presidential Election, have withdrawn from the process.

After making the decision on Thursday, the party's interim leader, Gerard Batten MEP, said:

"The MEPs in question were completely in agreement with my decision. It would be entirely wrong for any UK political party's MEPs to take part and I hope that they follow the UKIP example."

Already the Washington Post reports (1):

"Independent election observers and activists have alleged numerous incidents of ballot stuffing and other irregularities in Sunday’s vote, which President Vladimir Putin is certain to win."

And it goes on to report that the Russian Election Commission is claiming that it is reacting immediately to all allegations of election irregularities. And also reports that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been banned from taking part in the elections, has used YouTube to tell the Russian people that he has boycotted the elections and is advising others to follow suit.

Navalny has also criticised the seven other contenders for Putin's crown on his blog for failing to denounce the ballot stuffing and said that “such candidates aren’t worthy of your vote".

I wonder how large Putin's majority will be this time?

Now, a group of UK MPs and business leaders have written a hard-hitting letter to the EU Commission telling them to stop pushing the UK around, reports the Sun and Express.

According to the reports, the letter signed by Brexit Minister David Jones and Tory MP Owen Patterson among others, mirrors a favourite phrase of Michel Barnier by saying that the clock is indeed ticking and:

We suggest the time has come for the Commission to put an end to cheap political posturing and to start safeguarding the interests of working people right across Europe by coming to ‘a new deep and special partnership’ that our Prime Minister has proposed.

“The alternative is that we just leave, in which case the people of the UK will simply not tolerate paying to the EU the very large sums being talked about under the implementation period.”

(1) This quoted resource no lobger appears on the Washington Post website: www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-latest-russian-monitors-report-election-irregularities/2018/03/18/341ab520-2a72-11e8-a227-fd2b009466bc_story.html?utm_term=.bf34e9548a21

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