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Tusk tells EU: 'You cannot betray the 6 million people who signed the petition to revoke Article 50'

Tusk said today that the European Parliament must stand with pro-European Brits if the UK seeks an Article 50 extension.

Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT Donald Tusk has told the European Parliament that its members “should be open if the UK wishes to rethink its British strategy”.

Addressing parliamentarians in Strasbourg, Tusk said the possibility remains that the UK could seek a long extension to its Brexit process.

“It would of course mean the UK’s participation in the European Parliament elections,” he said.

At last week’s European summit, EU leaders agreed to delay the day of Britain’s departure from the bloc by three weeks until 12 April, while Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to ratify a withdrawal treaty.

But many on the continent – most vocally France’s President Emmanuel Macron – oppose a longer extension, concerned it would disrupt the European Parliament elections that start on 23 May.

If Britain is still an EU member on that date, it would have to take part in the vote, and wrangling over Brexit would continue to disrupt the European political agenda for months or years to come.

On Saturday, an estimated 1 million people marched through London calling for a people’s vote on Brexit. Similarly, a petition calling for Article 50 to be reversed is nearing 6 million signatures.

“Then there were voices saying it would be inconvenient or harmful to some of you [if UK takes part in European elections]. Let me be clear – such thinking is unacceptable,” Tusk said.

You cannot betray the 6 million people who signed the petition to revoke Article 50, the 1 million who marched for a people’s vote or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union.
They may feel they are not sufficiently represented by the UK parliament. But they must feel they are represented by you in this chamber because they are Europeans. 

His comments come with the House of Commons today set to debate and hold a series of indicative votes on Brexit that could point the way towards the next steps the UK will take in the coming weeks.

MPs will have the chance to vote on various options such as revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit, holding another referendum, a deal including a customs union and single market membership or leaving the European Union without a deal.

Even if MPs decide a majority course of action today, it won’t be legally binding and could be ignored by the government.

With reporting from AFP, Órla Ryan

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Sean Murray

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