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REPORT: EU Plots Two-Year Brexit Delay, Officials Prepare for UK to Join EU Elections

Brexit
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images
JACK MONTGOMERY

The European Union is pushing for a lengthy extension of Britain’s negotiations for Brexit, pushing exit day well beyond March 29th — and leaving British officials to plan for Britain to participate in the European Parliament elections in May as if nothing has changed.

The British people voted to Leave the European Union almost three years ago in June 2016, but the Government delayed triggering the Article 50 mechanism for exiting the bloc for several months, and the Remainer-dominated Parliament now looks set to insist that the tw0-year negotiating period which it lays down is extended.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who supporting Remain in the Brexit referendum herself, had hoped to leave the EU on March 29th with the “Soft Brexit” deal she has negotiated which itself envisioned the UK essentially staying on as an EU member, minus its voting rights, for an 18-month “transition” period. But it has been rejected twice by Parliament, due to the machinations of opposition politicians who do not want Brexit to happen in any form and Brexiteers from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and her own party who believe the terms of her deal could have left the EU in control of huge swathes of British policy and compromised the kingdom’s territorial integrity.

As a result, the United Kingdom defaulted to a clean, No Deal exit on March 29th, under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 — but MPs followed their second rejection of Mrs May’s deal with a vote to take No Deal off the table forever.

Whether this vote was binding is a subject of debate, but it makes it extremely unlikely that the EU will consider improving its offer to the United Kingdom — given Parliament has essentially assured them there are no circumstances in which they will make a clean break with Brussels rather than accept poor terms.

With no clear way to break the deadlock, Parliament will today vote on whether to extend the Article 50 period. Yet while Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has said he is recommending a “long extension” so the British have time to “rethink”, other senior EU figures warn the negotiations are closed.

“We are ready. The EU is ready to face [No Deal] if we have to… Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted,” gloated Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator in the Brexit talks.

“The United Kingdom must tell us what its choice is, the clear line we’re waiting for, before we even decide on an eventual extension.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chosen representative in the Brexit negotiations, struck a similar tone, warning he is “against any extension of Article 50, even for just 24 hours” without a clear alternative course of action being laid out.

“Under no circumstances an extension in the dark! Unless there is a clear majority in the House of Commons for something precise, there is no reason at all for the European Council to agree on a prolongation,” he later added.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Britain could revoke Article 50 unilaterally — but only if it intends on doing so with a view to staying in the European Union permanently, and not with intent to merely trigger it again and restart the two-year negotiating period again.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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