Brexit delay “most likely” option, says George Osborne

Ex-UK Chancellor George Osborne has said that a delay to Brexit is now the “most likely” option, after comparing a no deal exit to “Russian roulette”.

Osborne says that the UK has to choose between a no deal Brexit, or delaying leaving the EU temporarily. Osborne said that the prospect of no deal meant “the gun is held to the British economy’s head”.

“Russian roulette is a game which you should never play because there’s a one-in-six chance that the bullet goes into your head.”

MPs are proposing alternative plans to the PM’s deal with the EU, including seeking an extension to the UK’s exit date – it is due to leave on 29 March. But the prime minister has said the “right way” to rule out no-deal Brexit is to approve her withdrawal agreement.

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said that it was “highly likely” the party would back an amendment put forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, with support from MPs in other parties.

It would give time for a bill to suspend the Article 50 process for leaving the EU if a new deal has not been agreed with Brussels by the end of February.

“I think it’s increasingly likely already that we’ll have to take that option because the government has run the clock down.”

Among the MPs’ plans are to consider a range of options over six full days in Parliament before the March deadline or hold a representative “Citizens’ Assembly” to give the public more say.

Another proposal seeks to win over some opponents of the prime minister’s deal by insisting on “an expiry date to the backstop”, the “insurance policy” intended to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The backstop is opposed by some Conservative MPs and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party because it could mean keeping the UK in a customs union with the EU indefinitely and having different rules for different parts of the UK.

But the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar said he could not give up the formal guarantee of the backstop “for a promise that it will be all right on the night”.

The European Commission also warned that it was “obvious” that a no-deal Brexit would mean a hard border in Ireland.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is meeting Mrs May for talks on Wednesday, said she supports seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline.

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