EU grants Brexit delay to January 31, UK ponders new election
LONDON (AP) — The European Union agreed Monday to delay Brexit by three months until January 31, making the offer to avert a chaotic United Kingdom departure just three days before Britain was due to become the first country ever to leave the 28-nation bloc.
The decision was welcomed by politicians in the UK and the bloc — but not by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said just weeks ago that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than postpone the UK’s leaving date past October 31.
In the end, the choice was not in his hands — and the EU’s offer of an extension looks to be only a temporary respite from Brexit anxiety.
The U.K. Parliament forced Johnson to ask for a delay in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would hurt the economies of both Britain and the EU.
Johnson is now pushing for an early election as a way of getting a more cooperative Parliament. Lawmakers in the House of Commons are voting later Monday on a government motion calling for a British general election on December. 12.
After a very short meeting Monday of diplomats in Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that the EU’s 27 other countries would accept “the UK’s request for a Brexit flextension until January 31, 2020.”
Under the offer, the U.K. can leave before January 31 if the British and European parliaments ratify a Brexit divorce agreement — either on December 1 or January1.
“It was a very short and efficient and constructive meeting and I am happy the decision has been taken,” said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
There was no immediate response from Johnson, who is bound by law to accept the EU’s terms. But Johnson’s spokesman insisted it was Parliament’s fault, not the prime minister’s, that Johnson had failed to deliver his core promise of an October 31 Brexit.