May Asks EU for Brexit Extension Until June 30: Brexit Update

Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, departs number 10 Downing Street on her way to attend a weekly questions and answers session in Parliament in London, U.K., on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the European Union for an extension to the Brexit deadline until June 30, she told lawmakers in the House of Commons, after pro-Brexit ministers objected to being stuck in the bloc for much longer. It increases the chances that the U.K. could crash out of the bloc at the end of June, and could make for a tense meeting with European leaders on Thursday.

Key Developments:

May requests delay until June 30, says will bring back deal for another vote in Parliament A senior British official warns against taking for granted that the EU would easily agree to a delay this week Cabinet Brexit-backers threaten to resign if extension is so long the U.K. has to take part in European Parliament elections Juncker says another summit may be needed next week Two deadlines: U.K. needs to decide by mid-April if it will hold EU elections. If it doesn’t it will be on course to leave the bloc on July 1 with or without a deal

May’s Explanation to Tusk For Delay (12:20 p.m.)

May’s letter to Donald Tusk makes no mention of what she proposes to do if Parliament doesn’t vote through her deal.

Instead, she explains what’s happened in Parliament, asks for an extension to June 30, to allow the deal to be passed, along with the related legislation, and then stops.


May: I’m not Prepared to Delay Any Longer (12:05 p.m.)

Theresa May announced she has asked the European Union to delay Brexit until June 30 and said she will bring her deal back for a third vote in the House of Commons.

“As prime minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th of June” May told lawmakers in the House of Commons after announcing that she has written to EU Council President Donald Tusk.

The premier hinted that she would rather quit than see the U.K. take part in EU elections in May. “I do not believe such elections would be in anyone’s interests,” she said before adding that they would not happen while she was prime minister.

Labour Seeks Emergency Debate on Extension (12 p.m.)

Labour has thrown its weight behind MP Alison McGovern’s push to get an emergency debate (see 9:35 a.m.), and taken over the move. The party’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, will now ask Commons Speaker John Bercow to grant the debate, following a series of so-called urgent questions in the chamber, including two on Brexit mechanics. The exact timing is hard to predict, but Starmer’s move should come at about 3 p.m.

Dark Mood in Brussels (11:10 a.m.)

The mood in Brussels is very bleak today, as EU officials don’t know how to read the U.K. government’s plans. One senior diplomat warned of a looming catastrophe and said the blame game for a no-deal has already started. Everybody should realize that responsibility must lie with May’s lack of clarity and delaying tactics over two years, he said.

Many EU governments are pressing for a crisis summit next Thursday — that’s the day before the U.K.’s scheduled leaving day — if there’s no definitive decision tomorrow, he said.

Tory MP Says Party on Verge of Schism (11 a.m.)

Philip Lee, a pro-EU Conservative member of Parliament who resigned as a minister last year to vote against May’s deal, said in an interview the Tory party is “having a Corn Laws moment,” referring to the 1846 schism that lasted for decades after then Prime Minister Robert Peel used opposition support to repeal import tariffs on food.

“You need to ask people in the Cabinet if they want no-deal next week or a second referendum,” Lee said. “If the prime minister made her deal contingent on a second referendum, it would pass.”

EU Trust in May Evaporating: Senior Official (10:45 a.m.)

A senior EU diplomat briefing reporters in Brussels said trust in May’s government is evaporating. The EU needs to know what a short Brexit extension means and why she thinks it will do any good. There’s a danger in prolonging the Brexit paralysis, the diplomat said, amid speculation there could be another summit next week to make a final decision on any delay.

The prime minister needs to be more precise with the EU about her plans than she’s ever been before, the diplomat said.

How Extension Could Play Out (10:30 a.m.)

We’re still waiting for Theresa May to publish her letter setting out exactly how long she wants the Brexit extension to be. But her office is saying it won’t be “long.” That probably means ending in June so the U.K. doesn’t have to take part in EU elections.

A short extension sets up the risk of a cliff-edge in July. That’s because the European Union has said that if the U.K. doesn’t hold European Parliament elections then it will be ejected from the club on July 1 — deal or no deal.

However, there could be some wiggle room. May could come back to the bloc in early April and ask for a long extension then. That scenario would give her time to do one more vote in Parliament and if she still fails, she’d be in time to call European elections and avoid a no-deal Brexit in July. It’s also worth noting that, despite their misgivings, most EU governments think only a longer extension would be worthwhile to make progress.

The question is will the Brexiteers let her, and how will they react if she does lock in a long extension? Some were hinting on Tuesday they would quit and the Conservative Party would splinter.

Corbyn Said to Plan Barnier Meeting on Thursday (9:45 a.m.)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is planning to meet with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier during his visit to Brussels on Thursday, according to two people familiar with the matter. He’s due to attend a meeting of European socialists before the EU summit.

Corbyn held cross-party talks in London on Monday in a bid to find a way out of the parliamentary impasse over Brexit. He’s pushing for a softer break from the EU that would see Britain remain in a customs union with the bloc.

Labour MP Seeks Emergency Debate on Extension (9:35 a.m.)

Labour member of Parliament Alison McGovern will ask Speaker John Bercow on Wednesday to grant an emergency debate on May’s decision to seek a Brexit delay, Anna Soubry, an independent MP, told the BBC.

That debate, if granted, would knock out the scheduled business of the day. There could even be amendments tabled to it mandating a change of course, though these would be difficult to organize at short notice. The move will come at the start of House of Commons business at 11.30 a.m.

EU Yet to Receive Delay Request From May (9:30 a.m.)

The EU says it has not yet received a request from the U.K. to delay Brexit, a senior EU official said, adding that the bloc hopes May’s intentions will be clear by the time she addresses leaders at a summit in Brussels at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

After May’s finished, the 27 other EU leaders will discuss the way forward without her, including preparations for the possibility of the U.K. leaving the bloc without a deal.

Leadsom: Next Vote on Deal Could Be Next Week (9:10 a.m)

During her LBC radio interview, House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said the government could potentially hold a third vote on May’s Brexit deal next week, despite Speaker John Bercow’s ruling on Monday that the can’t bring it back unchanged for another try.

“I think that if we have the numbers to be able to support the prime minister’s deal then we will be able to find a way around the procedures and there are different ways to do that and obviously that’s one of the things I’ve been considering,’ she told LBC.

She said the vote could “potentially” take place before March 29.

Leadsom Hints at Extension to June (8:45 a.m.)

Asked on LBC radio about how long the government will seek to delay Brexit, House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom dropped a June hint, pointing out that could happen without the U.K. taking part in European Parliament elections.

She was then asked directly: “June?”

“Well, yes,” she replied. “The reality is I can’t answer that question because it will be for the EU 27 to decide, and they do need to unanimously decide what they’re prepared to offer us.”

She later said, though, she wouldn’t speculate on the date May will request for an extension.

Juncker Raises Prospect of Summit Next Week (8:30 a.m.)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker floated the prospect of another summit of EU leaders next week, as there may not be enough clarity by tomorrow’s meeting to decide on whether to grant an extension. As of this morning, Brussels had yet to receive a letter from May requesting such an extension, Juncker told German public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in an interview from “his bed.”

“Patience” is “wearing thin,” Juncker said, according to his spokeswoman on Twitter.

May Won’t Seek Long Delay (7:15 a.m.)

May will not ask the EU for a long delay to Brexit, a spokesman for the U.K. prime minister’s office said on Wednesday.

The prime minister is due to write to the bloc seeking the agreement of all 27 other leaders to delay the U.K.’s departure beyond its scheduled March 29 date. But she “won’t be asking for a long extension” to the deadline, the Downing Street spokesman 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 prime minister shares their frustration.”

It’s not yet clear how many months delay May will ask for. She has previously proposed a delay until the June 30 to avoid the U.K. needing to take part in European Parliament elections. But such a short delay potentially poses a risk that the U.K. will face the threat of a no-deal Brexit at the end of June. DM


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