THERESA May was urged to delay Brexit by more than 40 British diplomats worried about the stalling talks with the EU, and accused her of presiding over a “national crisis”.

The Prime Minister was told Britain’s national interest would be better served by an extension of Article 50 than remaining trapped in the current climate of uncertainty. The 40 British diplomats told The Times in a statement they believe remaining in the EU for a longer time would allow both the UK and Brussels to clarify the terms of their future relationship. An extension would even allow people to have another say on Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement, if MPs agreed to hold a second referendum.

This comes just hours before a much-anticipated Commons debate, which will see MPs debating and voting on a series of amendments to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement thrashed by Mrs May and Brussels in November last year.

Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, urged MPs to signal support to the Government, as he believes EU member states will be more likely to give concessions to the UK if they see Parliament will approve a modified deal.

He said: “I think that there’s a danger that we send the wrong signals and I think that we need to understand that the public want us to leave the European Union but they would prefer us to leave the European Union with a deal.

“And therefore Parliament has got a duty to ensure that we send the correct signals that represent those views of the British people and represent them to those we are negotiating with.”

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10.30am update: SNP tables motion for Article 50 extension

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, said his party has tabled an amendment to today’s motion requiring the British Government to start immediate talks with Donald Tusk’s European Council to extend the UK’s permanence in the EU by at least three months.

He told BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that this motion would prevent Britain to leave without a deal.

He added: “Parliament has the chance to instruct the government to act and it must do so.”

Nicola Sturgeon, the party leader and First Minister of Scotland, added Edinburgh has stepped up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

10am update: Dutch Prime Minister says Brexit Britain will be ‘too small’ to be relevant around the world

Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, said the UK will be “weakened” by Brexit and its economy alone won’t be able to compete around the world.

He told Spanish newspaper El Pais: “It is the UK that will be weakened.

“It is already weakening; it is on the wane compared to two or three years ago.

“It is going to become a middling economy stuck in the Atlantic Ocean.

“It is neither the US nor the EU.

“It is too small to appear on the world stage on its own.”

Mr Rutte also shows doubts the UK and the EU will be able to thrash a deal before March 29.

He continued: “My impression is that the ball is advancing towards the precipice and everyone is screaming stop, but nobody is doing anything to prevent it, at least from the British side.

“Some British parliamentarians say that we want to trap them in a permanent limbo. But it is not true.

“The EU is interested in moving to the next phase as soon as possible and starting a new relationship with the United Kingdom.

“But given May’s efforts to renegotiate the Irish backstop, I do not know how this will end and whether we can avoid a hard Brexit.

“It would be devastating for the UK.”

9.50pm update: Steve Baker MP urges Tories not to rule out no-deal Brexit

Steve Baker, Deputy Chair of the influential Tory pro-Brexit ERG, said Conservative MPs should not be associated with anything which seems to take a no-deal Brexit off the table as it would hurt the negotiating strategy and would not be in the national interest.

9.30am update: Theresa May urged to DELAY Brexit by dozens of British diplomats

More than 40 UK diplomats have called on Theresa May to extend Article 50, The Times wrote.

The diplomats argued delaying Brexit is the best option the UK currently has, as it would give time to clarify the terms of the future relationship between Britain and the EU or allow for a second referendum.

This comes after Mrs May’s top Brexit aide Olly Robbins was overheard in a hotel bar in Brussels saying the EU is likely to extend Article 50.

9.10am update: Ford warns of consequences of no-deal Brexit and threatens to ‘take action’ if necessary

Ford warned leaving the EU without a deal would have “catastrophic” consequences amid speculations the company may be ramping up preparations to move its production abroad.

With only 44 days to go before Brexit day, the chances of a no-deal scenario are getting increasingly higher.


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