- British Prime Minister Theresa May has requested a three-month delay to Brexit.
- The prime minister has written a letter to the European Council’s president, Donald Tusk, requesting that Britain’s exit from the European Union be pushed back to June 30.
- She had planned to call for a lengthier extension.
- The EU on Thursday will decide whether to accept the request.
LONDON – Theresa May has written to the European Union requesting a three-month extension of Article 50 that would push Britain’s exit from the EU back to June 30.
The prime minister wrote to the European Council’s president, Donald Tusk, on Wednesday morning requesting the Brexit delay and rejecting calls for a longer extension.
She said that while she remained “confident that Parliament will proceed to ratify” her deal, “this will clearly not be completed before 29 March 2019.”
Announcing her decision to Parliament, May said she was not prepared to accept a longer extension.
“I am not prepared as prime minister to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” May said in a statement to MPs.
“The outcome of a long extension would be endless hours and days of this House contemplating its naval on Europe,” May told MPs.
“This House has indulged itself on Europe for too long. It’s time for this House that it will deliver on Brexit for the British people.”
The leaders of the 27 other EU countries are set to decide on Thursday whether to accept the request.
However, an EU Commission note published on Wednesday suggested that EU leaders would not be willing to accept a delay until the end of June.
The memo states that the UK has a “binary choice” of either accepting a short delay until the start of the European Parliament elections on May 23rd, or a significantly longer delay until the end of 2019. It also ruled out any further renegotiation of the Brexit deal.
The prime minister had originally been intending to write to Tusk on Wednesday to demand both a short extension of about three months as well as a lengthier extension of up to two years.
Parliament approved a motion last week that included a promise to demand a lengthier extension by the end of this week if MPs had not backed a deal.
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 – in which it maintains some ties to the EU – or hold a second referendum.
‘Betraying the British people’
- Thomson Reuters
A longer extension would most likely have 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.
Trade Secretary Liam Fox and the House of Commons leader, Andrea Leadsom, are both understood to have been prepared to resign from Cabinet over the issue.
“If you continue to apply for an extension to Article 50, you will be betraying the British people,” the eurosceptic Tory MP Peter Bone told May.
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.
That plan was scuppered, however, after 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.