What’s happening with Brexit?
April 8, 2019
It looks like Brexit might be heading for another delay.
Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk requesting another short extension.
In her letter, May asked that the UK’s exit from the European Union be delayed until June 30 to allow more time for negotiations with other political parties to break the continued deadlock. The UK is due to leave the EU on April 12, but MPs have yet to approve a withdrawal deal.
There’s just one catch: June 30 is the date that May initially put forward when she requested an extension last month, which the EU outright rejected.
Instead, the EU offered a short delay until April 12 and the opportunity for the UK to present alternative options before then, or until May 22 if MPs had approved May’s withdrawal deal by the original exit date of March 29. May’s plan was voted down for a third time at the end of last month.
May also acknowledged that the proposed extension date would mean the UK would have to take part in elections to the European Parliament, which begin May 23. However, she noted that lawmakers would work to ratify a withdrawal deal before May 23, which would allow the UK to cancel its elections “but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible.”
“This impasse cannot be allowed to continue,” wrote May. “In the UK it is creating uncertainty and doing damage to faith in politics, while the European Union has a legitimate desire to move on to decisions about its own future.”
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Is the April 12 deadline off the table?
The UK can ask for an extension, but ultimately the decision rests with the EU. And since the EU already rejected that date once before, there’s a good chance that it will do so again.
When EU leaders set the April 12 deadline, they specified that if the UK wanted an extension past that date, May would have to explain “a way forward.” In her letter, May said she intended to reach a compromise with the opposing Labour Party and if that failed she would use indicative votes to “determine which course to pursue.” It’s worth noting that numerous indicative votes were tabled in Parliament last week and none received approval.
But representatives from various EU member states were critical of May’s proposal, saying it didn’t give enough clarity on how the UK will be able to resolve its political deadlock over Brexit.
According to The Guardian, the French ambassador to the EU said during a meeting with colleagues from other member states that he “failed to see in Theresa May’s letter any argument in favour of a long extension” and that “no agreement is still the most probable scenario.”
Leaders are set to discuss May’s letter at the EU summit on April 10.
The ‘flextension’ extension
It’s understandable that EU leaders are less than enthused about the prospect of continuously discussing Brexit delays.
To remedy this sentiment, Donald Tusk is expected to put forward a compromise during this week’s summit. Dubbed the “flextension,” Tusk’s plan would extend Brexit by a year, with the ability for the UK to leave earlier once British MPs approve a deal.
While the UK would need to hold elections for the European Parliament under Tusk’s plan, British MEPs would leave the chamber once the UK left the bloc.
Tusk has reportedly described his plan as “the only reasonable way out” and would avoid leaders having to vote on extensions repeatedly.
Under EU rules, unanimous agreement is required to pass any plan.
And since there’s no consensus among EU leaders regarding Brexit, there will undoubtedly be some heated closed-door debate before any agreement is reached.
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Cross-party talks continue
As May mentioned in her letter, she and the leader of the opposing Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, have been holding talks to reach a compromise.
Talks began last week and will continue this week leading up to the EU summit on April 10.
But as with everything Brexit-related, the talks have been a source of political controversy.
The notion of May striking a deal with Corbyn has caused outrage among members of her Conservative Party.
But this past weekend, May released statements defending her talks with Labour, saying that without finding a compromise Brexit would “slip through our fingers.” May admitted that since the withdrawal deal she negotiated with the EU was rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, there was no chance that MPs would accept it “as things stand.”
She also noted that since Parliament has indicated it will not support a no-deal Brexit, cross-party talks are necessary to ensure an agreement is reached.
“The choice that lies ahead of us is either leaving the European Union with a deal or not leaving at all,” said May in a video statement.
“Now there’s lots of things on which I disagree with the Labour Party on policy issues. But on Brexit I think there are some things we agree on: ending free movement, ensuring we leave with a good deal, protecting jobs, protecting security.”
Despite this claim, the progress of the discussions hasn’t exactly been promising.
Talks between the two party leaders stalled last week, with Labour accusing May of failing to offer “real change or compromise.”
The two leaders are committed to continuing discussions this week, but the timeline is tight. May needs to present a new plan to EU leaders on April 10 – just two days before the UK is set to leave the bloc.
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