Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 6 News List

EU leaders offer options to delay Brexit

NEW DEADLINE:Brussels has agreed to wait on another vote on Theresa May’s deal in parliament to postpone the split until at least April 12, depending on its passage

AFP, BRUSSELS

European leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday agreed on a short delay to Britain’s divorce from the EU in the hope of ensuring an orderly Brexit.

Britain had faced a sharp cliff-edge deadline of Friday next week to leave, but May’s EU colleagues said that the split could wait until May 22 if British lawmakers approve a withdrawal accord next week.

However, if the British House of Commons rejects the deal — as it has done twice before — Brexit is to take place on April 12, unless Britain has decided by then to take part in this year’s European parliamentary elections.

“April 12 is the key date in terms of the UK deciding whether to hold European Parliament elections,” European Council President Donald Tusk said, announcing the arrangement.

Britain would need time to legislate to take part in the May 23 to May 26 election, and May has insisted it would not try, preferring in her words “to honor” voters’ decision to end London’s 46-year-old membership.

“I believe strongly that it would be wrong to ask people in the UK to participate in these elections three years after voting to leave the European Union,” May said, confirming the agreement.

If the vote is not organized, then a further “extension will automatically become impossible,” Tusk said, adding that even with an election, all 27 remaining EU member states would unanimously have to approve it.

“March 29 is over. As of tonight, April 12 is the new March 29,” an EU official said.

“On April 12 we have to know where things stand... If we don’t have a response by then, we will have a no-deal Brexit,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said.

“The responsibility now lies with the British, and I think that’s the big achievement of the day,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Despite an extraordinary joint warning from Britain’s business and trade union leaders that the economic disruptions of a “no-deal” Brexit would present a “national emergency,” May had refused to rule out walking away.

Even as she was meeting representatives of the remaining EU states in Brussels for the European Council summit, an online petition hosted by the British Parliament and calling for Brexit to be abandoned topped 2 million signatures.

It still remains far from clear that May would be able to get the withdrawal agreement she signed in November last year past the House of Commons, and she turned up the heat on her own lawmakers after the Brexit talks.

“What the decision today underlines is the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week,” May said.

“Tomorrow morning I am returning to the UK and working hard on building support to get the deal through... I hope we can all agree we are now at the moment of decision,” she said.

May had requested a short delay until June 30 to allow time for the ratification of her deal if it is approved, but European leaders decided that they did not want Brexit concerns to linger into the election campaign.

Despite winning the extension, there is a chance the decision might be taken out of May’s hands.

She had intended to hold a third vote on her deal this week, but the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow blocked it, citing 400-year-old precedent that the same proposition cannot be put to lawmakers repeatedly.

May is hoping that the EU summit’s approval of fresh guarantees about the agreement will overcome the speaker’s objections, but even if the deal goes forward, rebel lawmakers might seize control of the process.

This story has been viewed 2615 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top