BREXIT: EU leaders could grant the UK a longer more flexible Brexit extension than the one Theresa May has requested
EU leaders could grant the UK a longer Brexit extension than the one Theresa May has requested. Donald Tusk has suggested a flexible delay to Brexit could last up to a year.
In a letter to the heads of the 27 remaining member states ahead of a summit on Wednesday, the European Council president said there was ‘little reason to believe’ that the ratification of Mrs May’s beleaguered Brexit deal could be completed in the time frame she set out.
The prime minister is about to ask for a delay until the end of June, backed by a vote in parliament. If it isn’t granted, we face leaving without a deal on Friday.
Mr Donald Tusk called for the European Council to discuss a longer extension, even though the UK won’t ask for it. This ‘flexible extension’ could last ‘as long as necessary and no longer than one year’ – so if a deal is agreed in that time, we could leave earlier.
Mr Tusk wrote: ‘The flexibility would allow 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 EU27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits.
“Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates.” “Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy.”
He suggested that the EU would grant an extension rather than allowing Britain to leave without a deal on Friday, saying that, given the “risks posed” for those on both sides of the English Channel, ‘I trust that we will continue to do our utmost to avoid this scenario’.
Mr Tusk’s letter came after the PM arrived in Paris for talks with Mr Macron, who in recent days has warned that an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process is not guaranteed. Earlier over a ‘working lunch’, Mrs May and Ms Merkel had agreed on the importance of an ‘orderly withdrawal’ from the EU, Downing Street said.
The unanimous agreement of all 27 remaining EU states is needed to avoid a no-deal Brexit on the scheduled date of April 12. The visits came as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Brussels could amend the Political Declaration on future relations with the UK ‘within a few hours or days’ to incorporate the customs union arrangement being discussed in cross-party talks between the Government and Labour.
But there were signs of resistance in Mrs May’s Cabinet to compromise with Labour, with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warning that a customs union would leave the UK “stuck in the worst of both worlds”.
Meanwhile the cross-party talks seeking to break the Brexit impasse will resume on Thursday, with Labour saying the Government had not yet made a “clear shift” in its position. A party spokeswoman said: ‘We had further detailed and wide-ranging talks with Cabinet ministers and officials today. ‘We have yet to see the clear shift in the Government’s position that is needed to secure a compromise agreement.
A Downing Street spokesman said the talks were “productive” and “wide-ranging”, adding: “We remain completely committed to delivering on Brexit, with both sides working hard to agreeing a way forward, appreciating the urgency in order to avoid European elections.”