EU agree Brexit ‘flextension’
In the early hours of Thursday morning EU leaders agreed to grant the British Prime Minister an additional extension to Article 50 until October 31st. However, there was significant initial disagreement among the EU 27 over how long an extension to grant to the UK. While the majority of EU leaders spoke in favour of an extension up to 12 months, a smaller group of member states led by France raised objections. President Macron initially rejected any extension beyond June 30th in a sign of growing frustration over the continued Brexit uncertainty.
Theresa May had requested a much shorter delay up until June 30 but EU leaders agreed that the UK needed more time to work out its Brexit strategy with EU Council President Donald Tusk noting that the revocation of Article 50 should be considered. Should the UK ratify the withdrawal agreement prior to the new deadline then they will have the flexibility to exit the EU earlier.
The decision in Brussels will likely lead to additional pressure on Prime Minister May from those on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party. Under the terms of the agreement between the EU 27 and the Prime Minister, the UK must now hold elections to the European Parliament. Otherwise the UK will crash out of the EU on June 1st. Parliament will return after Easter on April 23rd when attention will once again turn to whether the Prime Minister and Labour can come to a compromise agreement.