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28 February 2019

The Guardian: Any extension of article 50 must be a one-off, Brussels to insist

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Brussels is to insist that any Brexit delay is a one-off, according to senior EU diplomats, setting the stage for Theresa May to present MPs with the choice of her deal or a chaotic no-deal exit this summer.

The prime minister has suggested that she will seek a two-month extension if MPs vote down her deal again in mid-March to allow further time for negotiations.

But EU27 heads of state and government are said by senior sources to hate the idea of the UK then asking for a further delay when the initial extension proves to be insufficient for renegotiations.





Key member states are understood to be planning to put pressure on the European council president, Donald Tusk, to rule out a second extension in writing. “Some member states will insist on that being on paper,” said one diplomat.

May is expected to put her deal to the Commons again on 12 March, and then seek an extension of article 50 if it fails to pass.

Diplomats say EU27 leaders will not want to discuss the length or terms of the delay when they meet for a European council summit on 21 March but merely sign off a mandated extension request made by May in the nine days after the vote. [...]

The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, told reporters at a joint press conference with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Vienna on Thursday: “If this extension should take place it is also necessary to ask the question: what is the goal for the time frame, what good does this extension do? Does it ensure that we will be able to finish all the work? But if this is the way out to prevent a hard Brexit then we will support this path.”

May is understood to have beentold during recent discussions with Tusk and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, that the Commons vote on 12 March, should provide a clear path as to how the deal could be saved even if the meaningful note is lost.





“A short extension without a mandate, or something from Westminster, will be very difficult,” one EU diplomat said. “If Westminster is not able to say anything, I don’t think the European council will buy it. What the European council will try to avoid is a discussion at the European council.

“She has to pose the right question to get the right answer. There are two schools of thought, one is that a short extension will be a short jump that will precede another extension, and this is something people hate, politically and even from a purely administrative point of view. So others say it is better to have a long extension.”

Some senior EU officials and diplomats are pushing the idea of a 21-month extension, which would delay Brexit until 2021, to allow plans for the future relationship to develop, and for there even to be a change of personnel in Downing Street. [...]

Full article on The Guardian

© The Guardian

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