Give Us ‘Good Reason’ to ‘Prolong Uncertainty’, EU Tells UK on Brexit Delay
The EU has considered even delaying Brexit till the end of 2020 if the UK shifts its current course by deciding to seek much closer ties with the Union, according to reports.
The European Union would need a precise and specific plan and a good reason to “prolong uncertainty” by granting the UK a Brexit delay, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier declared 10 days before the originally projected date of Britain’s departure from the Union.
Barnier spoke in Brussels on Tuesday, ahead of a summit of EU leaders on Thursday and Friday when they are set to discuss with the British Prime Minister Theresa May the Brexit delay options.
After the Brexit deal that she negotiated with the EU was twice defeated by the British Parliament and its Speaker John Bercow unexpectedly precluded a third vote, May has been widely expected to request an extension of the Brexit date of March 29, 2019.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for her office confirmed that she was going to send a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for a Brexit delay.
The EU Brexit negotiator, however, emphasized that any extension to be granted by the Union should be well justified as a delay of Brexit would prolong uncertainty.
“It is our duty to ask whether this extension would be useful. It would extend uncertainty and uncertainty costs,” Barnier told reporters in Brussels, as cited by Reuters.
“We cannot prolong uncertainty without having a good reason for it,” the negotiator of the EU added.
“EU leaders will need a concrete plan from the UK in order to be able to make an informed decision,” he argued further.
In his words, the other 27 national EU leaders would ask May if a Brexit delay would boost the possibility that the British Parliament would ultimately ratify the existing Brexit deal.
“Extending uncertainty without a clear plan would add to the economic costs to our businesses but could also incur a political cost for the EU,” Barnier said, making it clear that the EU would seek what is best for itself.
In a way, the EU Brexit negotiator mocked the idea that May could ask the EU for both a long extension and a short extension on Brexit.
“You said both short and long, well, it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?” he responded to a reporter.
There have been speculations that the UK leader might ask for both types of extension on Brexit, the rationale being that a long extension could be shortened if the British Parliament finally approves her Brexit deal with the EU.
“A longer extension needs to be linked to something new, there needs to be a new event, a new political process,” Barnier warned.
The EU has considered a Brexit delay even until the end of 2020 in the event that the UK decides to seek much closer ties with the Union after leaving, or holds a second Brexit referendum or early elections, according to diplomats and officials cited by Reuters.
The EU also insists that the UK would have to participate in the European Parliament elections on May 24 – 26, 2019, if it remains a member of Union beyond June 2, 2019, when the new EU Parliament is set to convene for the first time.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator made it clear that the Union would not agree to renegotiate the main withdrawal treaty with the UK.
“Voting against no-deal does not prevent it from happening. Everyone should now finalize all preparations for no-deal scenario. On the EU side, we are prepared,” Barnier declared.
(Banner image: TV grab from BBC News)