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No extension yet: EU waiting to see what happens in London, Labour waiting to see what happens in Europe

One must decide on granting an extension and the other must decide on holding an election.

There's more waiting to do before we've clarity on the next stage of Brexit.
There's more waiting to do before we've clarity on the next stage of Brexit.
Image: PA Images

Updated Oct 25th 2019, 3:52 PM

EU AMBASSADORS HAVE agreed in principle to a Brexit extension but have postponed a decision on exactly how long it will last for.

Their final decision has been slated for early next week but it may not come in time for UK politicians to make a decision on holding an election. 

The EU is keen not to appear to be influencing House of Commons votes but Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has said it must first know what kind of extension is being granted. 

While no decision has been made on the length of an extension, it’s believed that EU leaders are looking at a so-called ‘flextension’ to the end of January 2020, allowing the UK leave the bloc when there is agreement in parliament.

A vote on whether a UK election is to be held is to be taken on Monday. 

In Brussels, diplomats from the 27 member states agreed that the final decision could be made by written procedure, meaning there will be no emergency summit to discuss the matter.

After a meeting between the diplomats and EU negotiator Michel Barnier this morning, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said “work will continue in coming days”.

“The EU 27 ambassadors just finished their meeting and indeed the attendance of the Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier,” she said at a short briefing.

What I can tell you is that the EU 27 have agreed to the principle of an extension and now work will continue in the coming days. The intention is to take this decision by written procedure but for any further questions I would refer you to the Council.

Two diplomats told AFP that the ambassadors set an informal deadline of late Monday or early Tuesday to decide — just two days before the current Brexit deadline of 31 October.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has recommended EU leaders approve an extension until 31 January 2020.

But, with France pushing for a shorter delay to keep the pressure on Westminster, and Germany and Ireland backing a three-month pause until 31 January, the decision is not done.

“Depending on how things evolve in the UK, we’ve given ourselves until the start of next week,” a senior diplomat said.

“It’s clear that if a decision is taken in the UK on whether or not to hold an election — the date of the election will weigh on the consultations,” he said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have been trading barbs over the UK airwaves today as Johnson seeks to win support for the holding of a December election. 

Labour looks set to block Johnson’s bid for a pre-Christmas election with Corbyn arguing that a no-deal Brexit must first be taken off the table.

The stalemate has led to a situation where the UK parliament is waiting for an extension decision while EU leaders are waiting on parliament’s decision before making their own.

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Rónán Duffy

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