EU unwilling to accept May's 3-month Brexit delay
UK Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit yesterday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal through parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.
May’s initiative came just nine days before Britain is formally due to leave the European Union and marked the latest twist in more than two years of negotiations that have left British politics in chaos and the prime minister’s authority in tatters.
After the defeats in parliament opened up the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal and a smooth transition, May said she remained committed to leaving “in an orderly manner” and wanted to postpone Brexit until June 30.
Her announcement prompted uproar in parliament, where the opposition Labour Party accused her of “blackmail, bullying and bribery” in her attempts to push her deal through, and one prominent pro-Brexit supporter in her own Conservative Party said seeking a delay was “betraying the British people.”
Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU by 52 to 48 percent, but the decision has split the country, opening up divisive debates over the future of the economy, the nation’s place in the world and the nature of Britishness itself.
Some European capitals have welcomed May’s extension plan, with Germany saying a disorderly British departure would be in nobody’s interest.
But a European Commission document said the delay should either be several weeks shorter, to avoid a clash with European elections in May, or extend at least until the end of the year, which would oblige Britain to take part in the elections.
The pound fell sharply as May requested her extension.
Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, British politicians are still arguing over how, when or even if the world’s fifth-largest economy should leave the bloc it first joined in 1973.
When May set the March 29 exit date two years ago by serving the formal Article 50 divorce papers, she declared there would be “no turning back” but parliament’s refusal to ratify the withdrawal deal she agreed with the EU has thrust her government into crisis.
May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday to ask for a delay.
“As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” May told a rowdy session of parliament.
“I have therefore this morning written to President Tusk, the president of the European Council, informing him that the UK seeks an extension to the Article 50 period until June 30,” she said.
May said she planned to ask parliament to vote a third time on her departure deal, which lawmakers have voted down twice. She did not say when the vote would happen.