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Brexit deal 'very unlikely' by October, warns Welsh first minister

Carwyn Jones in Brussels (Getty)
Carwyn Jones in Brussels (Getty)

The first minister of Wales has warned Britain is set to crash out of the EU without a deal next year unless negotiations are extended.

Carwyn Jones believes the civil war in the Conservative party means it is now “very unlikely” that a Brexit deal can be agreed with the EU by the current October deadline.

He said: “The great danger now is that the UK government finds itself in a position where it cannot negotiate in October because it doesn’t have support for a common position within its own ranks and we end up with a cliff edge anyway.

“That is unfortunately where we’re headed at the moment.”

MORE: Ministers forced to miss major EU meetings by Tory Brexit rebellion

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Jones made the prediction in a speech to the European Policy Centre in Brussels just hours after meeting EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Barnier had earlier met UK officials to discuss the Chequers plan, but the prime minister’s ability to deliver it has been thrown into doubt by a Conservative rebellion.

Jones said the situation meant talks should be extended for up to a year in order to avoid what he called the “horrendous” consequences of a cliff edge exit in March.

He said: “I’d support a request to extend the deadline for an agreement. It’s now so tight that it’s becoming unrealistic. If such a request were to be made, given the fact that Chequers agreement now seems to be in bits again, that would be in everyone’s interest.

“…It’s now very unlikely that we’ll end up with an agreement by October or November. I might be wrong, but let’s face it the odds are now very much against it.”

Carwyn Jones meeting Michel Barnier in Brussels last year (Getty)
Carwyn Jones meeting Michel Barnier in Brussels last year (Getty)

Labour’s most senior elected figure admitted there was no guarantee that extra time would deliver a deal but added: “I think it would be a shame if that agreement didn’t happen for the sake of three months or six months.”

He did not throw his weight behind call to resolve the chaos by holding a second referendum, saying another vote would “annoy people.”

“Many people who voted remain would be tempted to vote for a hard Brexit because they would feel annoyed about being asked the second question so soon after the first one,” warned the first minister.

He added however that a second referendum would become “inevitable” if the UK Parliament can’t agree on the Chequers plan and another general election didn’t deliver support for Theresa May.

Jones has welcomed the Chequers plan as a step in the right direction, although he branded its complex customs proposals “fanciful.”

MORE: Key part of May’s Brexit plan meets resistance in Brussels

He would prefer the UK to remain members of the single market and customs union and argued accepting EU rules that the UK would no longer have a say in making would be better than a “massive loss of investment, jobs and welfare.”

As well as the effect on the possible effects on his country, Jones also said Brexit would have an effect on his family. His wife is Irish and his children have acquired dual citizenship.

Jones revealed: “My kids now think it’s great that they have a passport that they can wave it me and say: ‘Look dad we can live and work anywhere.’

“It’s true. That’s the problem. It’s ridiculous really that we end up we’re in different passport queues for no reason at all really: silliness more than anything else.

“It does show how difficult the situation might become.”

MORE: UK to keep EU rules on workers’ rights and the environment after Brexit