May to approach EU for delay in Brexit

March 20, 2019


LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May will write to EU President Donald Tusk with a plan for delaying Brexit beyond March 29, her spokesman said on Tuesday, admitting the parliamentary deadlock had reached crisis levels.

The letter will be sent before May heads to a Brussels summit on Thursday, where she has already promised to seek what could be a lengthy postponement of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

May had hoped to persuade MPs before then to back the divorce agreement she has struck with the EU, but her plan to hold a fresh vote was dramatically blocked by the speaker of the House of Commons.

Exasperated European leaders are now demanding London tell them clearly what it wants, warning that the risk still remains that Britain could crash out of the bloc in 10 days, ending its 46-year membership of the bloc without formal arrangements.

“If there’s no decision and March 29 comes then it’s no deal. If Britain decides on nothing then it chooses no deal,” French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau told reporters in Brussels.

May’s letter to Tusk would come either later Tuesday or on Wednesday, her spokesman said, amid reports she will seek a 12-month delay.

“The prime minister will be writing to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, before European Council begins in relation to an extension of Article 50,” the spokesman said.

May is struggling to keep control of the Brexit process after MPs last week decisively rejected her divorce deal for a second time.

She has reluctantly accepted that Brexit must be delayed, amid fears of an economic shock if Britain ends its 46-year membership of the EU with no new arrangements in place.

But she said that if MPs backed her deal this week, it might only be a short delay to ratify the text.

This plan was scuppered on Monday when Speaker John Bercow delivered a surprise ruling that she could not keep bringing her deal back to MPs without changes.

May had previously warned that without a deal, the EU might impose a lengthy delay.

Asked her view on the current deadlock, May’s spokesman noted that she had previously warned MPs that rejecting her deal would spark a “crisis”. “I think events yesterday tell you that that situation has come to pass,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019