British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for a short Brexit extension request to 30 June 30 was met with a mixed reaction by the remaining 27 EU members, most of whom remain divided on the issue.
The most likely scenario, for now, appears to be a far longer extension that could carry over into 2020 after European Council President Donald Tusk who, in a letter to the heads of the 27 Member States, requested that they push back the deadline for Brexit to an unspecified time beyond the end of the year.
”Our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June. In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates. This, in turn, would almost certainly overshadow the business of the EU-27 in the months ahead. The continued uncertainty would also be bad for businesses and our citizens,” Tusk wrote in his letter on 9 April, adding “if we failed to agree on any next extension, there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit”.
Tusk also floated the possibility of what he called “a flexible extension” which would last only as long as necessary but would not stretch for longer than one year as it would affect some key European projects.
“The flexibility would allow us to terminate the extension automatically, as soon as both sides have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready and the EU-27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits,” Tusk added before saying that a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy.
Merkel meets May
May’s working lunch with Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, ahead of the European Council, was an opportunity for her to outline the steps her government is taking to bring the Brexit process to a successful conclusion. May reportedly updated Merkel on the ongoing discussions with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. The leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the EU.
May will meet with Tusk before the start of Wednesday’s Summit and another bilateral rendezvous is expected as soon as the EU-27 reaches an agreement on their position once the cocludes.