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UK Politics: Barnier talks tough as MPs prepare to unite against Brexit

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The EU's chief negotiator is warning that Britain could be set for a chaotic Brexit. Meanwhile, Tory and Labour MPs are coming together to oppose the government and the odds on Jacob Rees-Mogg becoming Prime Minister continue to shorten. Max Liu reports.

"May is [1.33] to leave office before Brexit is complete, and has come under pressure from all sides of her party in recent weeks, but the Prime Minister will set out exactly what Britain hopes to achieve by leaving the EU."

The European Union's chief negotiator in the Brexit negotiations is warning that Britain could crash out of the EU next March without a deal. Michel Barnier says substantial disagreements on the rights of EU citizens and border control are jeopardising plans for a Brexit transition period. The UK is [2.52] to leave the EU by 29 March 2019 - the deadline agreed when Article 50 was triggered last year.

Bettors have long believed that Brexit will take longer than its original deadline. This view was compounded when both sides started to talk last year about a transition period during which Britain and the EU would, as Britain's chief negotiator David Davis puts it, "maintains access to each other's markets on existing terms."

The transition would probably last for two years, allowing businesses and citizens time to prepare for full-blown Brexit. Unfortunately, nobody yet knows what Brexit will entail so, at this point, it's impossible to provide details.

Barnier blasted Davis and his team on Friday, warning that the two sides were failing to agree on how the transition would work. He says there are "substantial disagreements" about the terms of the transition - including differences on EU citizens' rights and border controls - which increases the likelihood of a chaotic Brexit.

However, according to one report this morning, Barnier's approach to Brexit negotiations in the source of disagreement in Brussels. In typically dramatic language, the Telegraph is reporting that Barnier has "fractured the EU by stepping up his aggression towards Britain."

Leaders from some of the 27 EU countries believe Barnier has gone too far and, the paper claims, have admitted they think the terms of the transition are unfair on the UK. It makes a change to read about divisions in Brussels rather than in Westminster.

Conservative and Labour MPs unite against Brexit

With so much uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Theresa May will give a speech in three weeks in which she will outline the relationship the UK wants to have with the EU after Brexit. May is [1.33] to leave office before Brexit is complete, and has come under pressure from all sides of her party in recent weeks, but the Prime Minister will set out exactly what Britain hopes to get out of leaving the EU.

Meanwhile, politicians from all parties could be set to unite against the government's plans to take Britain out of the customs union. The Conservatives' Anna Soubry and Labour's Chuka Umunna appeared together on Sunday's Andrew Marr Show and look set to lead a coalition of Remain MPs which will vote against the government.

The pair are fed up of their leaders' respective positions - May's to oppose the Brexiteers in her government and Corbyn's failure to oppose the government. Soubry and Umunna believe there is a parliamentary majority in favour of staying in the customs union and are calling for MPs from all parties to join them and prevent a hard Brexit.

They would, ultimately, like a second referendum on Brexit, something which is [3.5] to happen before 2020.

Moggmentum continues to build

One MP who won't be joining the cross-party alliance against Brexit is Jacob Rees-Mogg. Last week, this column discussed his chances of succeeding Theresa May as Tory leader and PM. Seven days on, the price on arch-Brexiteer Rees-Mogg - whom polls show as the preferred candidate among Conservative members - becoming Britain's next PM has narrowed to [5.7].

In the latest YouGov poll, meanwhile, there are worrying signs for Labour who are four points behind the Conservatives when it comes to general election voting intention. The Tories are up one to 43% with Labour down three to 39%.

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