PM May wrote to Donald Tusk today asking for a further extension to Brexit from April 12 to June 30 despite the European Council president telling other EU nations to agree a longer delay until March 31, 2020.
Her request means the UK might have to take part in European elections set to happen on May 23, but the prime minister will be hoping she can get her deal through the House of Commons to leave before that date.
In the letter, she stated the Government is still going to undertake the preparations for the elections but added if MPs can ratify before then – she will propose the period should be terminated early.
“The Government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections,” she said, “but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible. “
However, it seems the European Council have different ideas. Speaking to Sky News, an EU source said Donald Tusk told member country officials: “The only reasonable way out would be a long but flexible extension. I would call it ‘flextension’.”
He said that it would give the UK a year-long extension which could be automatically terminated once the House of Commons had come to an agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement and added even if this were not possible – then the UK would still have some time to rethink its strategy.
“It seems to be a good scenario for both sides, as it gives the UK all the necessary flexibility while avoiding the need to meet every few weeks to further discuss Brexit extensions.”
EU leaders are due to meet on April 11, just a day before we are currently meant to leave, to decide on the outcome of her extension request – which has to be agreed unanimously by all 27 nations.
And with Theresa May already having had her deal rejected by MPs on three occasions, it is unclear as to whether the European Council will grant her wish – but following cross-party talks which began with Labour on Tuesday, there might be scope for change in May’s deal to finally gain a majority in the Commons.
In the letter, May stated she met with the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn and agreed to follow-up discussions to explore agreeing on a proposal to put before the House of Commons that allows the UK to leave with a deal.
She wrote: “The impasse cannot be allowed to continue… That is why the Government has decided to take further action to seek a consensus across the House of Commons on the right way forward.”
Now, however, much to the dismay of the Government – following May’s further talks with Jeremy Corbyn today – Labour accused May in a statement of failing to put anything new onto the table.
A Labour spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the government has not offered real change of compromise.
“We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in parliament and bring the country together.”
If the EU doesn’t decide to throw May another lifeline extension and MPs subsequently do not gain a majority in the Commons before April 12 – then the UK will be crashing out with no deal at all, something Mark Carney – the governor of the Bank of England – has described as “disorderly” due to there being no transition period.