Eurocrat Tusk: ‘Short’ Brexit Delay Possible If Commons Passes May’s Deal

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 20: Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, speaks to the media one day prior to a summit of European Union leaders on March 20, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. EU leaders will come together for a two-day summit that is taking place only a little over …
Sean Gallup/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said that the EU may grant a “short extension” to Article 50 — but only on condition the House of Commons passes Prime Minister Theresa May’s unpopular Withdrawal Agreement.

After speaking on the telephone to Prime Minister May, Mr Tusk told media 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.

“The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal of the 30th of June… creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will have to discuss this tomorrow.”

“If the [EU27] leaders approve my recommendations and there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the extension in a written procedure,” Mr Tusk added.

Mrs May is believed to have revised her proposed one-year extension request on Tuesday, after European and Brussels leaders made clear that any delay of Brexit would only be granted if the prime minister had a plan, with the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator advising the UK to “finalise preparations for a no deal” exit.

The European Council of the EU27’s leaders must agree unanimously to the extension, with French media reporting today that France’s Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron will reject May’s request.

However, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, had set out this afternoon criteria which the UK will be expected to fulfil to ensure France does not veto the extension: the delay must be used to “finalise the ratification of the deal already negotiated”; the deal agreed in November “won’t be renegotiated”; and the UK must not participate in the May European Parliament elections.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow ruled out a third vote on May’s deal Tuesday; however following Mr Tusk’s advise May will near certainly endeavour to find a workaround to the Remain-supporting Speaker’s ruling with a possible vote to come next week.

Ministers are likely to talk to DUP and Brexiteers to get them on side, after Mrs May lost both votes by large margins in recent months, with MPs now facing a choice between Mrs May’s unpopular deal and a clean, no deal Brexit.

However Tusk did not explicitly rule out a longer extension if May’s deal is not passed. Counting past 1,000 days since the Brexit vote, the UK would be left waiting another year to leave the EU, giving Remainers ample time and opportunity to stop the country’s exit from the political bloc.

In the House of Commons this afternoon, Labour MP Ian Murray said it has been confirmed Mrs May will make a statement to Members of Parliament at 8pm, fuelling speculation in the media that May could pledge to resign if her deal is voted down for a third time and the UK is forced into an extension that goes beyond June 20th.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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