‘Short’ Brexit Extension ‘Possible’ But Only if UK Parliament Backs Deal, EU’s Tusk Says
The European Council President is prepared to summon the EU leaders to an emergency meeting next week if the Brexit process developments make that necessary.
The European Union would agree to grant the UK a short extension but only if the British Parliament approves the existing Brexit deal, European Council President Donald Tusk has declared.
Tusk’s statement on Wednesday evening came in response to the formal letter request by British Prime Minister Theresa May that the EU agree to put off Brexit until June 30, 2019.
With 9 days left before the originally set Brexit date of March 29, 2019, May asked the Union for a Brexit extension after last week the British MPs rejected her withdrawal deal for the second time, and then House of Commons Speaker John Bercow unexpectedly intervened to prevent a third vote on “substantially the same” motion.
European Council President Donald Tusk’s statement late on Wednesday confirmed that he was in receipt of May’s Brexit extension letter. He revealed he had spoken to the British leader before making the address.
“I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk said.
His declaration might pile more pressure on the British Parliament to first schedule a new Brexit deal vote in the days before March 29, and, subsequently, to approve it – or it might backfire, should it become construed as an ultimatum by the Brexiteer MPs in the House of Commons.
The European Council President also dwelled on the issue of the duration of the potential Brexit extension.
“Prime Minister May’s proposal, of 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature,” Tusk said, adding that the EU leaders would be discussing those during the European Council summit that he would chair in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
He made it clear he saw no need for an extraordinary European Council for the time being, adding that the extension procedure could be finalized swiftly should the British House of Commons greenlight May’s Brexit deal next week.
At the same time, however, Tusk declared his preparedness to summon the EU leaders for an emergency European Council meeting, should need be.
“Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution,” the European Council President said, adding, “of course without opening up the Withdrawal Agreement.”
“I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill, at this most critical point in this process,” Tusk concluded.
Reports suggest that another EU body, the European Commission, the executive of the Union, is opposed to a Brexit extension by June 30 because of the May 23-26, 2019, European Parliament Elections. It would rather see an extension end before the elections, or last at least till end-2019, in which case the UK would have to once again elect its own MEPs.
(Banner image: European Council)