The EU yesterday was to discuss the length of another delay to Brexit after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an election to break the paralysis that has gripped British politics for more than three years.
Just a week before Britain was due to exit the EU, Johnson said that he would not meet his “do or die” deadline to leave the EU on Friday next week and sought an election on Dec. 12 to end what he called the “nightmare” of the UK’s exit from the EU.
EU envoys to Brussels were to discuss the length of another delay to Brexit at a meeting.
An official from the bloc said that the choice was between three months and a “two-tier” lag, but warned that a decision might not come just yet.
According to a draft decision by the 27 EU countries staying on together after Brexit, the delay would be granted by the bloc “with the view to allowing for the finalization of the ratification” of the divorce agreement sealed with Johnson last week.
While the draft text, which was to be debated in Brussels, for now leaves the new Brexit date blank, it said that the split could take place earlier if ratification is completed earlier — an idea known as “flextension,” an amalgamation of the words “flexible” and “extension.”
“Consequently, the withdrawal should take place on the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedure, or on (blank), whichever is earliest,” it read.
“It’s basically between a three-month flextension or a two-tier one,” the EU official said.
Under the first idea, Britain would leave on Jan. 31, three months after the current departure date. The second one would include a second specific date when Britain could leave.
Johnson won the leadership of the ruling Conservative party to become prime minister in a minority government by staking his career on getting Brexit done by next week, but after parliament rejected his proposed legislative timetable on Tuesday, he will fail to do that.
Brexit was initially supposed to have taken place on March 29, but then-British prime minister Theresa May was forced to delay twice — first to April 12 and then to Oct. 31 — as parliament defeated her proposals by margins of between 58 and 230 votes.
As Brussels mulls another delay, it must take into account the continued battle in London over how, when and whether to leave the bloc.
The EU official said: “It’s unclear if a decision can be taken tomorrow [yesterday] ... some might want to see the result of the early election motion.”
Johnson said in a letter to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn he would give parliament more time to approve his Brexit deal by Nov. 6, but lawmakers must on Monday back a December election, Johnson’s third attempt to try to force a snap vote.
“Prolonging this paralysis into 2020 would have dangerous consequences,” he said. “If I win a majority in this election, we will then ratify the great new deal that I have negotiated, get Brexit done in January and the country will move on.”
Corbyn said he would wait to see what the EU decides on a Brexit delay before deciding which way to vote on Monday, repeating that he could only back an election when the risk of Johnson taking Britain out of the EU without a deal to smooth the transition was off the table.
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