Theresa May abandons request for long Brexit delay after Cabinet revolt

UK Prime Minister Theresa May

caption
UK Prime Minister Theresa May
source
Getty

  • Theresa May abandons plan to seek a long Brexit delay.
  • Downing Street confirm she will now only seek a short extension of around 3 months.
  • Any longer extension would require Britain to take part in European Parliament elections and could come with conditions, such as that Britain holds a second EU referendum.
  • May’s ministers have reportedly threatened to resign if Britain agrees to a long extension of Article 50.

LONDON – Theresa May has abandoned plans to request a lengthy delay to Brexit of up to two years after a threatened revolt from her Cabinet.

The prime minister had been intending to write to European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday to demand both a short extension of around three months as well as a lengthier extension of up to two years.

A promise to demand a lengthier extension by the end of this week if no deal had been backed by MPs, had also formed part of a Commons motion passed by the government last week.

However, Downing Street sources confirmed on Wednesday morning that the prime minister would no longer be seeking the lengthier extension after members of her Cabinet reportedly threatened to resign.

“[The prime minister] won’t be asking for a long extension,” a senior government official said.

“There is a case for giving parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward, but the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now.

“They are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration.”

The prime minister will publish her letter to Tusk later today. It is expected to contain a request for an extension of the two-year Article 50 process, until the end of June.

Downing Street had been planning to also seek a lengthier extension as part of a plan to persuade Brexiteer Conservative MPs to back her deal before the end of the original Article 50 process, due to finish on March 29.

Any lengthier extension would require the UK to take part in the European elections in May and would have risked the EU attaching strict conditions, such as the demand that Britain should agree to a softer Brexit or to hold a second referendum.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the education secretary, Damian Hinds, confirmed that any extension would be short.

“The letter to Donald Tusk will be setting out what we are looking for in terms of short extension,” he said.

“We need to get this deal done. People are a bit bored of waiting for parliament to get our act together and get this over the line so we can move onto other things.”

A longer extension would have likely triggered a series of walkouts from May’s Cabinet by senior Brexiteers, many of whom are already furious about the prime minister’s inability to ensure that Britain leaves by the original Article 50 deadline.

The prime minister had been considering plans to hold a third meaningful vote on her Brexit deal this week after it was rejected for a second time earlier this month.

However, the plan was scuppered after the Speaker John Bercow ruled on Monday that the prime minister could not keep on bringing the vote back to the House of Commons unless the government secured significant changes to the deal.