The Prime Minister addressed the nation Wednesday evening, telling the British public that the country would not be leaving the European Union next week as promised.
The notification from the Prime Minister’s office of the last-minute address of the nation came after Theresa May wrote to the European Union asking for an extension of Article 50 — the political shorthand name for the negotiating period Britain has been engaged in for the past two years — before being almost immediately rejected.
While Brexit is meant to officially take place on March 29th — a date promised by the Prime Minister 108 times, according to the research of one member of Parliament — May has now requested an extension to June 30th, to give her extra time to force her controversial new negotiated relationship with the EU on the country.
The European Union reacted by saying the extension must be either much shorter — just a few weeks — or much longer, at a year or more. Adding to speculation over what might yet be awaiting Britain, the Prime Minister somewhat cryptically told Parliament during her comments at lunchtime that she would not be the Prime Minister to see Brexit extended beyond June 30th — apparently implying that if Parliament or the European Union attempted to force a longer delay, she would resign.
As is now becoming customary, notification of tonight’s address came from the Irish government, who the Prime Minister had presumably given advance warning to, before the news was given to either the British media or people.
UPDATE 2055 — Another Anticlimactic moment from Theresa May
So in short, we’re definitely not leaving the European Union next week, the Theresa May says. And she’s probably right.
The Prime Minister has now made quite a few of these statements over the course of the Brexit negotiation period, an impulse perhaps formed by a desire to get past the newsroom editors and get her personal view direct to the people — assuming that anyone bothered to tune in.
Unfortunately, this like the others before it was a decidedly anticlimactic event. We’ve not learnt anything new, and the statement itself was over in a matter of moments.
Might the Prime Minister’s press team worry that like the boy who cries wolf, by the time she does have something remarkable to tell the nation the voters will have tuned out totally?
UPDATE 2045 — May lays down the gauntlet to Parliament
The Prime Minister is clearly laying the blame for our Brexit chaos at the feet of Parliament, calling on them to back her deal for the sake of the country, and directly addressing the public to deflect some blame.
The PM told the waiting cameras: “I’m sure you, the public, have had enough…”
Quite right. She also signalled that, despite the rumours doing some traffic during the day that a resignation might be on the way, she wasn’t going anywhere soon. The PM said: “I will continue to work night and day… to secure support for this deal”.
Noting that nearly three years since the June 2016 vote, May ran through a timetable of events from triggering Article 50 two years ago to her two failed votes in the House of Commons.
Calling it a matter of “great personal regret,” she said “as a result, we will not leave on time with a deal on the 29th of March” putting the blame on the failure on parliamentarians for failing to pass her unpopular Withdrawal Agreement.
“It is now time for MPs to decide,” she said, explaining she had written to Tusk to request a short delay to Brexit until June 30th, time for MPs to decide what they want to do.
“Do [MPs] want to leave the EU with a deal that delivers on the results of the referendum?… Do they want to leave without a deal? Or do they want to not leave at all?” she asked, warning that to not deliver Brexit would “do damage” to the public’s faith in government.
Blaming parliament for failing to make a choice, May said she “passionately hopes” MPs will come to a way to back the deal, but said that she is “not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th of June.”
Addressing the public, she said, “You want us to get on with it, and that is what I am determined to do.”
Update 2030 — While we’re waiting for the Prime Minister…
Theresa May has made a habit in her press conferences of arriving extremely late — in fact, she only arrived back to Downing Street itself about ten minutes ago. Perhaps she takes her approach to timekeeping from her attitude towards delivering Brexit on time…
While we wait, a typically Jeremy Corbyn story from today. While the Labour leader attacked the Prime Minister at lunchtime for not having talks with him and other party leaders, when given the opportunity to do so this afternoon he apparently immediately walked out because the leader of the Independent Group Chukka Umunna was also present.
Until a couple of weeks ago Chukka and the majority of his followers were Labour MPs, but left the party to start their own while citing Corbyn’s failure to deal with Brexit and anti-Semitism in the party to their satisfaction.
Remember that one, next time Jeremy Corbyn accuses his parliamentary colleagues of acting immaturely…
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) March 20, 2019
UPDATE 2020 — The Day So Far
The day began with Prime Minister Theresa May revealing she would be asking the EU for a ‘short’ delay to June 20th, rather than a reported one-year extension. Senior Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith warned the Cabinet that any delay would be a betrayal of the party’s pledge to leave on March 29th that would result in political “consequences” from the electorate.
The point was reiterated by Peter Bone MP during Prime Minister’s Questions, who said she would be “betraying” the public after pledging 108 times that the UK would leave the EU on time.
There was speculation today that her plans for an extension were already in peril with reports in French media that France’s President Emmanuel Macron would veto the extension at the European Council.
May said 108 times the UK would leave the EU on March 29th… https://t.co/dUmhLITep2
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 20, 2019
Later, the Council President Donald Tusk said that her appeal for Brexit delay would only be passed by the EU27 if the House of Commons passed her unpopular Withdrawal Agreement, with France setting conditions that the UK would not run in May’s European Parliament elections, would not seek to change the deal, and would use the time to finalise the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Ostensibly, it appears the choice is between a clean, no deal Brexit and passing Mrs May’s deal with a short extension — though Tusk did not rule out a longer delay… 1,000 days after the Brexit vote.
This story is developing