The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier explained on Tuesday that the UK is most likely to be offered a final, long-term extension through 31 December as British Prime Minister Theresa May has not convinced the remaining EU-27 that she has a solid plan for the short-term.
A number of EU members, most notably France, remain sceptical about a lengthy extension and have cited the risks that the EU would be open to if Britain failed to follow-through on its promises. There is growing support, however, for the idea of a lengthy extension of around nine months looking most likely, according to diplomatic sources.
France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, has detailed Paris’ discontent for a long extension, saying France “mustn’t stand in the way of any decisions that the EU would have taken without them”.
In order to convince other sceptical EU members, May might have to set out in writing her intention for the UK to act in “sincere cooperation” with the bloc, and for a “weighing point” to be set up in October. The EU-27 could then judge whether the UK is loyal to its commitments, which, according to an EU diplomat “might be the price for French support”.
Barnier, himself, hinted that “the duration of an extension has to be in line with or linked to the purpose of such an extension, and that is something I can imagine May will be telling the leaders tomorrow”.
Germany’s EU affairs minister Michael Roth expressed his displeasure by stating that “absolutely nothing has changed” in the House of Commons, ahead of the Brexit Summit, adding, “Unfortunately, I have to say that the conditions that the European Council decided on in its last meeting have not been met. This means time will run out on 12 April,” Roth said in reference to the date when May will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Of course, the EU continues to be willing to talk. We will very carefully have to look at this letter. We are finally expecting substantial steps in the right direction. So far absolutely nothing has changed,” added Roth. “We might also have to give the British side time so they can finally be clear about what they actually want. Apparently, the very late talks with the British opposition have not led to any progress whatsoever.”
According to the European Commission’s deputy chief spokesperson, Alexander Winterstein, May has spoken with the EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and will meet, ahead of the Summit, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Juncker will speak with Merkel after May pays a visit to Berlin on Tuesday night.