Tue | Jul 23, 2019

May asks EU to delay Brexit until June 30

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:11 AM
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers’ Questions session at Parliament in London, on Wednesday, March 20.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers’ Questions session at Parliament in London, on Wednesday, March 20.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, says Britain should leave the European Union, EU, by the start of elections to the European Parliament on May 23 if the country is not taking part.

That’s earlier than the request British Prime Minister Theresa May has made. In a letter to the EU, May wants EU leaders to back an extension to the Brexit date from March 29 to June 30.

An EU Commission official said Juncker told May in a telephone call that “the withdrawal has to be complete before May 23,” the first day of the European elections.

The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, said that if the deadline comes later, Juncker warned May that “we face institutional difficulties and legal uncertainty”.

The 27 EU nations meeting in a summit today, Thursday, need to back an extension to the deadline unanimously.

In a letter to Tusk, May asked for a delay until June 30, and said she wanted to set out her reasons to EU leaders at today’s summit in Brussels.

Opposition politicians, and pro-EU members of May’s Conservative government, had urged a longer extension, saying a delay of just a few months could leave Britain once again facing a cliff-edge ‘no-deal’ Brexit this summer. Withdrawing without a deal could mean huge disruption for businesses and people in the United Kingdom and the 27 remaining EU countries.

But a long extension would infuriate the pro-Brexit wing of May’s divided party, and would require Britain to participate in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament.

May said that would be unacceptable.

“As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” she said in the House of Commons.

British lawmakers have twice rejected the Brexit deal May has struck with the bloc. Her troubles deepened when the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled earlier this week that she can’t ask Parliament to vote on the deal again unless it is substantially changed. That scuttled May’s plan to try a third time this week to get the agreement approved.

May told Tusk that despite the ruling, “it remains my intention to bring the deal back to the House”.

If it is approved, she plans to use the extension until June 30 in order for Parliament to pass the necessary legislation for Britain’s departure.

A delay to Britain’s withdrawal requires the approval of all 27 remaining EU countries – and that’s not guaranteed. The head of the bloc’s executive branch said EU leaders are unlikely to agree to a delay at the summit.

AP