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May secures 6-month Brexit delay from EU

April 12, 2019

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LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May will try to convince her splintered country on Thursday to accept a Brexit delay of up to six months she secured from EU leaders to the fury of many in her own party.

May’s 27 EU counterparts pulled another all-nighter in Brussels before clinching a compromise timetable for the unwinding of nearly half a century of ties that have been guiding many of Britain’s policies.

Britain will be able to leave before October 31 if its parliament manages to finally ratify the ill-loved deal May reached with the bloc and that has been behind all the political drama and anguish in London.

It could also still crash out on June 1 if it refuses to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23 — three years after Britons narrowly voted to leave in a referendum whose arguments echo to this day.

May will instead try to use the delay threat to secure votes from Brexit-backing lawmakers who keep voting against her because they view Britain’s current withdrawal terms as an abdication to Brussels.

“The EU have agreed that the extension can be terminated when the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified,” May said.

“If we’re able to do that before May 22, then we won’t have to hold European parliamentary elections.” The pound rose slightly in relief that the sides had managed to avoid a messy divorce that would have loomed had the current Brexit extension expired on Friday night without a new delay.

The delay avoids a possibly economic calamity on both sides of the Channel but does little to resolve the political morass that has seen May’s control over her Conservative Party and cabinet gradually slip.

Top anti-EU Conservatives lined up to take shots at their party leader while her Northern Irish coalition partners prepared for meetings in Brussels at which they could air their grievances with the plan.

“The pressure on her to go will increase dramatically, I suspect, now,” May’s former Brexit secretary David Davis told the BBC.

Right-wing MP Jacob Rees-Mogg also recalled May’s promise to lawmakers on March 20 that she was “not prepared to delay Brexit past June 30”.

“I thought the prime minister said a few weeks ago that she wouldn’t agree to any extension and now we are getting quite a long one,” Rees-Mogg said.

The party’s right wing fears that this delay might be prolonged yet again — and the extra time used to either water down the split between Britain and Europe even further or annul it outright.

EU Council Donald Tusk admitted in Brussels after the marathon meetings wound down that “everything is possible”.

“Our intention is to finalise the whole process in October... but I am too old to exclude another scenario,” Tusk told reporters.

May did get an unexpected boost in the shape of a tweet from US President Donald Trump — a leader whose protectionist agenda has him locking horns with Brussels over trade.

“Too bad that the Euro­pean Union is being so tough on the United King­dom and Brexit,” Trump wrote.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2019