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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

“Chaotic” UK government needs to make a deal on Brexit

Theresa May faces splits in her party and criticism from her EU counterparts over departure deal

Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said UK preparations for Brexitr were chaotic. EPA/Virginia Mayo / POOL
Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said UK preparations for Brexitr were chaotic. EPA/Virginia Mayo / POOL

European Union leaders have warned that time is running out for the UK to secure a Brexit deal by March 2019.

The UK's prime minister, Theresa May, was criticised on Thursday for Britain’s lack of progress as leaders gathered for two days of talks in Brussels likely to be dominated by migration rather than Brexit.

Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney said that the messages coming from Westminster about the UK’s position were “chaotic” while prime minister Leo Varadkar tweeted that the UK “urgently needs to step up Brexit negotiations”.

After March 2019, the UK is expected to enter a transition period until at least the end of 2020 when the UK will abide by the EU’s rules but have no powers to affect its decisions. As the deadline looms, Mrs May has faced in-fighting within her own Cabinet on post-EU trade and migration issues that have hampered discussions with the bloc.

“The [UK] government needs to know what kind of deal it wants, and whether this deal works in practice,” said Georgina Wright, a researcher at London-based think tank Chatham House.

Rival factions have set out their positions via the media, with Mrs May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy saying that her government should “toughen up” its attitude towards an “uncooperative” EU.

“The really frustrating thing for me has always been that every time the prime minister makes progress on Brexit, certain cabinet members set out completely alternative versions of Brexit,” ruling party MP and Brexit-critic Ed Vaizey told the BBC.