Theresa May faced a Brexiteer backlash on Friday after she asked the EU for permission to delay Brexit further. In a letter to EU Chief, Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister requested an extension to Britain’s departure until June 30, with the option to leave earlier if her Withdrawal Agreement is ratified.
Mrs May made it clear that she will seek to leave the bloc before the European Parliament elections on May 23. She said that “responsible preparations” will be made for the UK to take part in the polls if that does not prove possible. Her request will be considered at an emergency EU summit on Wednesday, where it requires the unanimous agreement of the leaders of the remaining 27 member states. However, Mr Tusk is understood to be recommending a longer postponement of one year, with a break clause in the case of earlier ratification, in a so-called “flextension” deal.
Britain is currently due to leave the EU next Friday but unless a deal can be agreed.
Asking for another extension the Prime Minister wrote: “This impasse cannot be allowed to continue.
“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’.
But Mrs May’s letter admits that if she fails Britain would go to the polls between May 23 and May 26, costing the taxpayer up to £108million to put on the elections.
British MEPs would then be paid a £85,000-a-year salary to sit in Brussels from July as the UK tries to leave.
Will A Year Long Deal Be An Option
EU sources have said they will reject Mrs May’s June 30 Brexit date and tell her that a year-long deal is the only option. With No Deal now off the table she would be forced to accept it.
Her decision to seek a further extension, which came after two days of talks with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, provoked fury among Brexiteers yesterday.
Former minister Owen Paterson urged Tories to “go nuclear” and push again for No Deal while leading Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg blasted: “If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget and obstruct the putative EU army”.
Brexiteer Nigel Evans said: “This comes from a PM who has revised everything she has said at the dispatch box.
“We now cannot believe with certainty anything the Prime Minister says in relation to Brexit at all.
“To spend £100 million on fighting European elections three years after the referendum shows total failure of leadership.”
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteers said: “The PM could get us out with a deal if only she would secure changes to the backstop in line with the Brady amendment which she whipped for. If only the Government would abandon the pursuit of a customs union in all but name, this crisis would end.”
Mrs May’s Cabinet is also divided over the length of any possible delay, too. Brexiteer Cabinet ministers including Gavin Williamson, Andrea Leadsom, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove are opposed to a long extension.
Cross party talks between Mrs May’s government and the Labour party continued yesterday with a customs union proposal looking the most likely compromise.
Britain Will Be Stucked With Another One Year Extension
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has warned that Britain would be stuck in the EU for at least another year unless the Government cuts a soft Brexit deal with Labour. He said it was now the only way in which Britain was likely to leave the EU next month.
Mr Cox told the BBC that unless a deal can be cut with Labour the delay would be a “long one, longer than just a few weeks or months”.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was “not optimal” to have any delay to Brexit as he warned there would be “no choice” but to accept a long extension if a way through cannot be found.
He told the BBC: “It’s obviously not optimal to have any extension at all and we have a plan to leave the EU and deliver on the referendum result which we put before Parliament a number of times.
“We still hope to leave the EU in the next couple of months, that’s our ambition, we don’t have a majority in Parliament and that means that we have to have these discussions with Jeremy Corbyn to see if there is enough common ground to do that.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the Government was “not countenancing any changes” to the wording of the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future UK-EU relationship.
In a sign that talks with ministers have so far failed to produce a breakthrough, he said: “Well, we’ve had two rounds of talks and today we’ve had an exchange of correspondence with the Government.
“So far, the Government isn’t proposing any changes to the deal. In particular, it’s not countenancing any changes to the actual wording of the political declaration.
“Now obviously that’s disappointing; compromise requires change. We want the talks to continue and we’ve written in those terms to the Government, but we do need change if we’re going to compromise.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We have made serious proposals in talks this week, and are prepared to pursue changes to the political declaration in order to deliver a deal that is acceptable to both sides.
“We are ready to hold further detailed discussions this weekend in order to seek any such changes in the run up to European Council on Wednesday. The Government is determined to work constructively to deliver the Brexit people voted for, and avoid participation in the European Parliamentary elections.”
Irish premier Leo Varadkar said a longer delay to Brexit “might make more sense” than the UK seeking “rolling extensions where there is an extension every couple of weeks or every couple of months because that just adds to the uncertainty for citizens, for businesses and for farmers”.