The Prime Minister has been warned by senior EU leaders and officials that the bloc will impose a set of strict conditions on any request to extend
The Prime Minister has been warned by senior EU leaders and officials that the bloc will impose a set of strict conditions on any request to extend the bloc’s Article 50 exit clause, according to Brussels sources. MPs last night voted to delay Brexit until at least June 30. EU leaders will now have to agree a unanimous position before Mrs May is granted an extension. Express.co.uk understands that the EU countries most invested in the Brexit process – Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands – will largely shape the bloc’s position at a leaders’ summit next week.
It means Britain’s decision to ask for an Article 50 extension will ultimately be decided on EU states, with leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron likely to make the final decision.
European Council President Donald Tusk, who will chair next Thursday’s debate, is set to suggest to leaders that they only open up the possibility of a long delay in order for Britain to abandon or soften Brexit.
He said: “During my consultations ahead of the European Council, I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build a consensus around it.”
Mr Tusk is one of the EU’s last standing supporters of encouraging a second Brexit vote in Britain and will use the extension request from Mrs May as a last-gasp attempt to reverse the divorce.
Anything agreed by Mrs May to delay Brexit is unlikely ever to be set out in public but ahead of the decision EU leaders are floating their own position as they struggle to reach a consensus.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said yesterday the EU could offer Britain a 21-month delay to allow the Government a “fundamental rethink” on its Brexit strategy.
He said: “If you have a long extension of Article 50, that opens up the debate in a much broader way to the overall approach that the United Kingdom takes to Brexit. That may facilitate a fundamental rethink, it may not, we just don’t know.
“If you have a long extension of, say 21 months, to the end of 2020 – whatever the period would be – then Britain has a legal entitlement to have representation in the European Parliament.”
This would involve Britain taking part in May’s European elections, he added.
Mr Macron is understood to be a supporter of a longer Brexit delay but only if there is a clear direction. He has previously suggested any extension could go beyond May’s EU Parliament elections.
The French President understands the threat posed by eurosceptics, such as Marine Le Pen, if Britain takes part in the European elections but is keen to ensure northern France’s fishing industry, which heavily relies on access to British waters and markets, is not decimated by a no-deal Brexit.
Germany has been less provocative but Chancellor Merkel will make her decision based on any requests and plans presented by Mrs May next week.
Foreign minister Heiko Maas, on Wednesday, said: “Now it’s time for the British to say exactly what they want in order to really bring the Brexit deal to a successful conclusion. Because time is running out.”
Last night MPs voted by 413 to 202 in favour of delaying Brexit at least three months in order to give the Prime Minister more time to secure support for her draft EU withdrawal agreement.
Mrs May is expected to hold a third “meaningful vote” next week as the pressure of a potential two-year delay to Brexit looms over MPs.
The Commons vote on the Government’s proposed Brexit delay, however, demonstrated the struggle the Prime Minister faces to win support for her deal.
She had to rely on Labour votes after more than half of Conservative MPs opposed the delay with 188 Tories voting against the Government motion, including Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and six Cabinet ministers.
The Prime Minister had allowed a free vote on the issue of a delayed Brexit, meaning none of the ministers will have to resign.