Brexit set to be delayed by a year as Donald Tusk rejects Theresa May's plea for short extension

Written by Matt Foster on 10 April 2019 in News

EU leaders meet for an emergency summit in Brussels to decide whether to offer the UK another delay to Brexit

Donald Tusk - European Parliament audiovisual

Brexit looks set to be delayed by a year as European leaders prepare to reject Theresa May's call for a shorter extension at a crunch summit. 

Ahead of Wednesday's crucial EU Council meeting to decide on the length of any Brexit delay, European Council President Donald Tusk said there was "little reason to believe" the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy would lead to a deal MPs could support before the summer.

And he instead threw his weight behind a longer "flexible" extension - despite May pushing for a 30 June exit date.

Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Friday, and May has been trying to make the case for short delay in talks with European leaders.

But, in a letter to EU leaders in advance of the summit, Tusk wrote: "Our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June.

"In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates...if we failed to agree on any next extension, there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit.

"This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension.

"One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year."

The European Council president said any extension could be terminated "as soon as both sides have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement" - and insisted the UK would be "free to leave whenever it is ready".

But he said: "Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates.

"Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy."

That has been interpreted as a clear signal that Mr Tusk hopes Brexit can be cancelled altogether during the extension period.

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