UK PM May In Brussels as EU Leaders Deliberate Second Brexit Extension

Theresa May Brussels
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European Union leaders are gathering for a special European Council meeting in Brussels to discuss whether to allow the United Kingdom to have a second delay to the official Brexit date.

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in Brussels Wednesday afternoon, where she will put her case to the gathering of EU heads of state before being asked to leave the room. From then, the leaders of the 27 EU member nations will debate how to respond to the Prime Minister’s request for more time to work on her Brexit deal while enjoying dinner.

Find updates towards the end of this article…

While top European Union figures including Donald Tusk have already accepted delaying Brexit for a second time and have even called for Britain to be allowed to stay in the European Union even longer than the June 30th request, there are complicating factors. Theresa May has repeatedly said she only wants a shorter delay — although going on past form, she’d probably accept a longer one if it was offered — and French President Emmanuel Macron is reportedly running out of patience for Brexit debates overshadowing his ambitions to lead and reform Europe.

The Prime Minister stopped to answer questions from BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg — inevitably the first, and sometimes the only journalist to be granted a question by the Prime Minister at press conferences — as she walked the red carpet to the special meeting, and appeared to walk back on her previous signalling that she’d step down as Prime Minister if Brexit was delayed too long.

May told Parliament in March that “as prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June”, remarks that were interpreted as being formulated to imply that while Brexit could be delayed beyond that date, she would not be Prime Minister to see it happen. May subsequently offered her resignation to Conservative Members of Parliament to get her deal through Parliament, but she seems to have had a change of heart.

While the Prime Minister didn’t answer the questions of the BBC political editor directly, there was no sign that a resignation was imminent. She said:

I’m here with fellow leaders to put in our request for a short extension to article 50, and I know some people will be frustrated that the summit is taking place at all. The UK should have left the EU by now, and I greatly regret the fact that Parliament has not been able to pass a deal that would enable us to leave in a smooth and orderly way.

The purpose of this summit is to agree an extension that gives us more time to agree a deal that leaves us to leave the EU in that smooth and orderly way.

I think what matters is that we are able to leave the Europen Union at the point where we ratify that withdrawal agreement, and that we leave by the 22nd of May

UPDATE 1000 — May to address Parliament Thursday

Get the latest from Breitbart London’s ongoing coverage:

UPDATE 2355 — The Prime Minister has been called back

Britain’s Prime Minister has been summoned back to the European Union buildings. European Council President Tusk has revealed, via Twitter, that an agreement has now been reached and he will be meeting with May shortly to get her agreement to the extension. The length of the extension hasn’t been confirmed yet, but reports claim it will run to the end of October with a review in June.

So only six months to go until the British government goes on bended knee to the European Union for a third time, to ask for another extension?

UPDATE 2340 — Spooky Brexit? 

The Reuters wire service reports “sources” in Brussels that EU leaders have agreed — you guessed it — a compromise. Somewhat between Macron’s desire for the shortest extension practicable and Tusk’s desire to stretch things out to March 2020 or later, the claim now is that they’ve agreed on October 31st, also known as Haloween.

Spooky stuff indeed. This has yet to be hard confirmed by the European Council. Trick or treat?

UPDATE 2330 — France playing hardball

France is putting up more resistance than perhaps may have been expected, given the long history of EU talks ending in compromise. The Guardian notes the messages of Mirror correspondent Pippa Crerar, who reports another one of those nameless EU sources on Macron’s position. It makes for amusing reading:

It is worth remembering that despite all talk in the media about Macron’s intransigence over these matters, he is more or less the only EU leader basically arguing for Theresa May’s position — for a short extension. And as reported earlier in the evening, he told journalists that he didn’t see it as his, or Europe’s place to overrule the democratic will of the British people to leave the European Union. That is despite the fact he is not really arguing as a friend to Britain, but for his own ends.

The fact that European leaders took a break from talks before heading back to the chamber to get at it again in the past hour, despite having already been locked in talks for four hours, suggests the evening still has a long way to run. This, again, is not unusual for European talks which tend to go right to the wire before finding sudden outbreaks of unity.

There is a lot to play for, after all. Without an agreement, the United Kingdom could against the better wishes of the British and European political class inadvertently leave the European Union on Friday. This would be very awkward for several senior top European leaders who have made a virtue out of putting the Republic of Ireland on a pedestal during Brexit talks, and using the nation of 4.7 million as a convenient excuse to keep Brexit as soft as possible.

Ireland has already admitted it will need billions of Euros of emergency aid to survive a so-called no deal Brexit. To what extent this is alarmist talk intended to keep minds in brussels focussed is unknown, but this is clearly an outcome that the EU would wish to avoid, not least because the sudden need to bail out Ireland would come the same day as the Union losing tens of billions of pounds in Brexit payouts from the United Kingdom.

A general view of leaders during a European Council meeting on Brexit at The Europa Building at The European Parliament in Brussels on April 10, 2019. (Photo by Olivier Hoslet / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLIVIER HOSLET/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE 2130 — Brexit delay on the way

While the private meeting of EU leaders is ongoing, snippets of what is going on are filtering out from the chamber, invariably attributed to unnamed “EU diplomats”.

The general feeling seems to be that EU leaders are willing to give Britain an extension, but that France is arguing for a much shorter delay so, as reported earlier, Macron can get on with his grand plans for Europe. Either way, it seems a further delay to Britain leaving the European Union is all but certain — as long predicted.

UPDATE 1840 — Everyone’s having a good time

Pictures of Theresa May laughing with her fellow European leaders are doing the rounds. With composition and rich colouring almost befitting a Dutch Oil, this image from Getty may illustrate the cosy club of Europe from which our political leaders are so reluctant to remove themselves:

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – APRIL 10:(L-R) President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk at a round table meeting on April 10, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium.Theresa May formally presents her case to the European Union for a short delay to Brexit until 30 June 2019. The other EU leaders will then then discuss how to respond at a dinner without her. (Photo by Leon Neal – Pool/Getty Images)

UPDATE 1815 — May Addresses the European Council

May is now believed to be speaking to European leaders, setting out the reasoning behind her request for an extension. Once she’s done, she will be asked to leave the room while the others discuss what to do. This could take several hours and an agreement may not be reached until early tomorrow morning — such things are not unknown for these European leader’s summits.

UPDATE 1800 — Macron’s telling comments

While we’ve had a lot of happy talk from EU leaders throughout the day, including from Germany’s Angela Merkel who has emphasised the importance of a soft Brexit because Britain leaving the Union outright would not be in Germany’s interests, Emmanuel Macron is living up to his reputation of having got fed up with the Brexit process.

In fact, his comments on the red carpet Wednesday afternoon may inadvertently gain the deeply divisive, if not outright disliked globalist a temporary boost in popularity among Brexiteers after he said it wasn’t Europe’s responsibility to decide whether to prevent the will of the British people being carried out or not.

This is for pragmatic reasons, of course, as Mr Macron wants very clearly to get on with what he sees as the important task of reforming the European Union as he sees fit. He told the cameras on the red carpet Wednesday afternoon:

For me, nothing is settled, and in particular no long extension

The first principle is that we have a European project. It’s been 34 months since the UK referendum was held and the key for us is that the European project is maintained in its coherence… We have a European renaissance to carry out and I don’t want Brexit to prevent us from moving on.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press as he arrives ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit at The Europa Building at The European Parliament in Brussels on April 10, 2019. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do European leaders want to give Britain more time?

As Breitbart London reported yesterday, top Eurocrat Donald Tusk is keen to give Britain more time — much more time, in fact — up to a year, meaning Britain likely won’t even leave the EU in a technical sense until nearly four years after the Brexit vote.

This, Mr Tusk wrote in a letter to European leaders was because:

…our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June. In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates. This, in turn, would almost certainly overshadow the business of the EU27 in the months ahead.

So in a sense, he wants to do the opposite to other EU leaders like Emmanuel Macron but for the same reason. They’ve had enough of Brexit dominating European summits and business, as it gets in the way of them pursuing their pet projects.

This story is developing and more follows. 

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