After meeting with EU leaders at an extraordinary summit in Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that she would accept the EU’s offer of a lengthy delay for Brexit as it would give the UK more time to get the Withdrawal Agreement approved.
May said she still believes that it would still be possible for the UK to quit by 22 May if the Commons chose to approve her deal, comments that came just as the EU leaders appeared set to offer her the option of postponing the Brexit deadline for roughly a year, the final date of which has yet to be set by the EU-27.
The bloc appears to have further toughened its stance on the conditions that it wants from the UK which would guarantee that the Brexit process won’t disrupt the bloc’s business during the extension. The UK must not, according to a resolution adopted at the summit, “jeopardise the EU’s objectives, in particular, when participating in the bloc’s decision-making processes”.
The heads of the EU-27 are in the process of discussing plans to grant a long extension to May. These talks will be carried out without May being present and will, according to an EU diplomat who confirmed the details to New Europe, concern all issues that require the EU to plan for the long term, including details about the bloc’s foreign policy and the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF).
According to the EU diplomat, if the UK expresses the will to attend the MFF meetings this would signal that the country wishes to remain a member of the EU. Some members of the EU-27 – particularly France – are concerned that London could disrupt Europe’s business practices during a protracted extension.
Prior to meeting with the European Council President Donald Tusk, May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sat and discussed the possibility of an extension. While engaged in talks with Tusk, May also touched on the point of the early-exit clause, which is important for the UK. May’s letter to Tusk concerned an extension request until 30 June and said that the UK would not want to remain for a year.
Second referendum would be the best outcome
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said the “best outcome” would be for the UK to hold a second referendum.”I still believe a second referendum will be the best outcome,” he said, with the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis backing his sentiments.
Macron and Kurz back a short extension.
The extension “isn’t a done deal,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who added that the UK needs to be clear about its plans as the rest of the EU needs to move forward with its own projects. “For me, nothing is taken for granted, in particular, a long extension. We need to understand why this request is being made and what is the political project that justifies it,” said Macron
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also backed a short extension, but will not block the decision for a longer extension if it is the only way to avoid a cliff-edge scenario. The UK will take part in the European elections set for May if it is the only way to avoid the cliff-edge.
“We are pleased that the British prime minister, who was again in Berlin yesterday, expressed her strong commitment to finding a way out of this difficult situation together with the opposition in the Lower House,” said Merkel, who added, “We know that such talks across parliamentary groups require compromise and time, so the government and I are of the opinion that we should offer both parties a reasonable amount of time, because an orderly exit is only possible in cooperation with the UK.”
Merkel went on to say, “If approval of the withdrawal agreement isn’t possible by 22 May, then European elections will be carried out in the UK on 3 May.”