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Whatever Brexit delay EU offers, it will come with conditions

Written by on April 10, 2019

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Article Written & Published By: Sky News

Whatever Brexit delay EU offers, it will come with conditions

This will likely include a reiteration of the EU position that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened.

Barring something wildly unexpected happening tonight, the one thing that can be said with any certainty is Britain will not be leaving the European Union at the end of this week.

12 April had been the new deadline for Brexit Day if (as transpired) Theresa May failed to win support for her withdrawal agreement following her first request to the remaining 27 EU member states for extra time – remember the UK should have left the bloc on 29 March.

Leaders on the EU side are making it clear they still want Britain to have an orderly departure and are against a no deal, despite increasing frustration at Brexit sucking up so much of their time and attention.

The EU27 do not want to be seen to have forced Britain out, because that would risk them being blamed for any economic or social shocks triggered by a no-deal.

So the two things to watch out for when EU leaders meet are the length of the extension they agree to offer to the UK and the conditions they attach.

The most likely outcome is a flexible extension until the end of this year or into spring 2020 – the latter is what Donald Tusk, the European Council president, is advocating.

A small number of countries – France, Spain, Greece, Austria and Slovenia – are thought to favour a shorter time frame of the end of June, as requested by Mrs May.

This is because of concern about the potential for Britain to disrupt EU decision-making, such as on budgets and appointing new commissioners, if given a lengthier deadline for departure.

But the majority view is in favour of a longer deadline, which would give the UK time to agree on how it wants to leave and would avoid this same cliff-edge moment happening all over again on 30 June, overshadowing normal EU business.

There is also a calculation being done by the EU27 that the threat of a long extension will pressure enough of the hardline Brexiteers in the Tory party finally to swing in behind Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement to get it over the line.

Whatever date is decided, it will come with conditions.

They will include a reiteration of the EU position that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened – a move that one source said was to make the plan “Boris proof”.

The source was referring to Boris Johnson and a concern among member states that he could attempt to redo the entire negotiation with the EU were he to replace Mrs May as prime minister.

Another condition will require the UK to take part in European parliamentary elections.

A draft on the summit conclusions warned that Brexit Day would be on 1 June if the UK did not go through with this.

There is a concern in Brussels that Boris Johnson could seek to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement as PM

There is also a desire among some member states for some kind of additional assurance that Britain will behave itself and not do anything that would disrupt EU decision making.

Today will be grim viewing for a British audience as it will expose the UK’s current impotence over the Brexit process and how the prime minister’s desire for an extension until 30 June will most likely be politely ignored.

However, with a bit of pride swallowing, she will probably accept whatever extension she is offered provided it is flexible, meaning that the timing of Brexit Day comes back under UK control if Mrs May is able to get parliament to agree on her withdrawal agreement or some other plan for departure.

If – as Mrs May believes is possible – this can be done before 30 June then even if Britain has to hold European parliamentary elections, the successful candidates will not ever have to take up their seats in the European Parliament from July because the UK will have already left – but that is a very big if.


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