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'A flexible extension': EU's Tusk proposes long Brexit delay but not more than a year

Prime Minister Theresa May met with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron today.

European Council President Donald Tusk
European Council President Donald Tusk
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

EU COUNCIL PRESIDENT Donald Tusk has urged the bloc’s leaders to allow Britain to delay Brexit for up to a year. 

The bloc agreed last month to postpone Brexit day, originally set for 29 March, and set 12 April as the new deadline under certain conditions.

Britain has until Friday to approve the existing withdrawal agreement, to change course and seek a further delay to Brexit, or to crash out of the EU without an agreement.

May has asked the remaining EU countries for another postponement that would extend to 30 June, hoping to secure an alternative deal from the opposition negotiations and Parliament in a matter of weeks.

Other European leaders are expected to respond to the delay request during Wednesday’s summit in Brussels. 

May will head to the EU summit on Wednesday seeking to secure the Brexit extension until 30 June.

‘Flextension’

Speaking of the 30 June date, Tusk has said the evidence of recent months gave “little reason to believe” divided British lawmakers would ratify a divorce deal by then. 

“This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension,” Tusk wrote in a letter inviting EU leaders to Wednesday’s Brexit summit. 

One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year, as beyond that date we will need to decide unanimously on some key European projects.

Under this so-called “flextension” arrangement, Britain could leave the EU as soon as parliament ratified the withdrawal agreement.

“Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates,” Tusk wrote.

Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy.

Berlin and Paris

Today, May made a trip to Berlin and Paris to speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about allowing her more time to get her divorce deal approved. 

During her meetings with both Merkel and Macron, leaders discussed the request for an Article 50 extension. 

Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of Brexit talks on Wednesday Source: Stefan Rousseau via PA Images

Speaking of the meeting with Merkel, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister outlined the steps the government is taking to bring the Brexit process to a successful conclusion, and updated Chancellor Merkel on the ongoing discussions with the opposition.”

May also updated Macron on ongoing talks with the opposition Labour party.

The UK government today acknowledged that it will not have secured a Brexit compromise with the Labour party before Wednesday’s summit. 

Senior ministers met with top figures in Jeremy Corbyn’s party today.

“We have had further productive and wide-ranging talks this afternoon, and the parties have agreed to meet again on Thursday once European Council has concluded,” a spokesman said.

“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,” they said.

With reporting by © – AFP 2019

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