Thu, Apr 11, 2019 - Page 7 News List

EU to force UK into long Brexit delay

UNCERTAINTY:A brief postponement would create a rolling series of short extensions, emergency summits and new deadlines, European Council President Donald Tusk said

Bloomberg

The UK’s exit from the EU looks set to be delayed by as long as a year in a blow for British Prime Minister Theresa May that risks a destabilizing backlash at home.

European Council President Donald Tusk rejected May’s request for a brief postponement to the UK’s membership, saying it would create a “rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates.”

Leaders were to finalize the length of the delay to Brexit at a summit yesterday.

Tusk wanted them to agree to an extension of up to a year, and diplomats from member states said the debate was between December and March next year for the new departure date.

Draft conclusions show that EU leaders are planning to offer the UK an early exit option from the extension in case a solution to the domestic deadlock turns up.

After months of uncertainty and knife-edge votes in the British parliament, the prospect of a lengthy extension is good news for business, which wanted to avoid a chaotic departure at all costs. The British pound rose.

However, the long delay is another political defeat for May, who had promised repeatedly to take the UK out of the EU by March 29.

May’s ruling Conservative Party has almost run out of patience with her leadership. Rival candidates to replace her are already engaged in barely concealed campaigning.

With a long delay locked in, and the risk of an imminent “no-deal” departure averted, May’s Conservative critics could decide they have no reason to hold back from trying to force her out.

Pro-Brexit Conservatives would be furious at a long delay.

The EU is still discussing the conditions that it would attach to the extension, with some countries more hardline than others.

French President Emmanuel Macron is the most “reluctant,” Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said.

France wants the UK to have its decisionmaking powers curtailed, with one French official saying an exiting member should not be able to weigh in on decisions such as the EU budget.

France also wants regular checks to ensure that the UK is sticking to its commitments of “sincere cooperation,” an EU official said.

However, the EU has no legal way of curtailing the UK’s voting rights, so would rely on the incentive of a trade deal to make sure the country behaves reasonably, said a person familiar with discussions at a meeting of the bloc’s envoys on Tuesday.

Tusk, who tends to take a friendlier line toward the UK, reminded leaders that the country remained a member with “full rights and obligations.”

Tusk also had a warning to those who might be tempted to gloat at the UK’s failure to leave, three years after voters decided to pull the country out of the trading bloc in a referendum.

“Neither side should be allowed to feel humiliated at any stage in this difficult process,” he said.

May, who has been humiliated at summits in the past, was to arrive at yesterday’s meeting with little to show her fellow leaders since she last saw them on March 21.

After her Brexit deal was rejected three times by a deeply divided parliament, she invited the opposition Labour Party in for talks to find a new way forward.

However, while the government put a positive spin on the cross-party talks on Tuesday, Labour said May’s team had not moved enough.

“We have yet to see the clear shift in the government’s position that is needed to secure a compromise agreement,” the UK’s main opposition party said in a statement.

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