Balloons bearing the star emblem of the European Union flag fly near Parliament in London, April 10, 2019. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP)
BRUSSELS - The European Union will grant Prime Minister Theresa May a second delay to Brexit at an emergency summit on Wednesday but leaders will debate a longer extension with conditions to prevent any future British leader jeopardizing the bloc.
In what was cast in London as a national humiliation, May dashed to Berlin and Paris on the eve of the summit to ask Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to allow her to postpone a divorce that was supposed to have been Britain’s ‘liberation’.
May had requested the EU defer Friday’s exit until June 30 but in Brussels a “flextension” until the end of the year or until March 2020 was being discussed, EU diplomats said.
May had requested the EU defer Friday’s exit until June 30 but in Brussels a “flextension” until the end of the year or until March 2020 was being discussed, EU diplomats said
Such an option would allow Britain to leave earlier if the Brexit deadlock in London could be broken, though the EU will try to stitch in conditions that prevent any successor to May from making mischief as Britain heads to the exit.
France opposes an automatic long extension at this stage and if London wants one, Macron could demand May sign up to a legally binding undertaking not to cause trouble by vetoing EU decisions.
A draft of the summit conclusions seen by Reuters said Britain would be granted another delay on certain conditions. It left the end-date blank.
“The United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardize the attainment of the Union’s objectives,” the draft read.
A long delay to Brexit would put the entire divorce in doubt by opening up the space for a second referendum and election, while harsh conditions would likely lead to a swifter end to May’s premiership.
European leaders fear a no-deal exit on Friday at 2200 GMT would spook financial markets, hurt the EU 27’s US$16 trillion economy and undermine global trade.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants
European Union leaders meeting later on Wednesday to grant Britain a delay in
its divorce from the bloc, but also to make sure once a decision is made in
London, Brexit can take place quickly.
"I believe we should make an extension for several months but not drag
it out. So if Britain has made its decision then an exit can take place
immediately," she said, adding she did not believe EU leaders would fail to
reach an agreement due to differences between France and Germany.
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