Michael Staines
Michael Staines

07.41 11 Apr 2019


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The EU Council President has called on the UK not to waste the extra time offered to it after European leaders agreed to push Brexit back to Halloween.

At a special summit in Brussels last night, European leaders rejected the UKs request for a short delay and instead agreed to extend the process for six months.

The deal includes a break clause that will allow to the UK to leave earlier if the House of Commons can pass the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The extension removed the threat of a accidental no deal Brexit this Friday night.

Extra time

After the meeting, Donald Tusk said the process is now “entirely in the UKs hands.”

“This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little bit shorter than I expected but it is still enough to find the best possible solution – please do not waste this time,” he said.

The Halloween date was agreed after talks lasting more than six hours in the Belgian capital.

EU leaders were said to be divided over the length of the extension – with 17 member states calling for the process to be delayed for a year.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for an even shorter extension – pushing for the UKs request for a 30th June exit date to be accepted.

The October 31st date that was eventually agreed is significant as it is the night before a new European Commission is installed in Brussels.

As part of the deal, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that the UK would operate in a spirit of "sincere cooperation" with the EU throughout the extension period – in a bid to prevent British MEPs from purposefully disrupting EU business over the next six months.

No deal

After the meeting, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the extension is good news for Ireland.

“It means that we won’t have a no-deal Brexit on Friday – if no deal happens at all it won’t happen until the end of October,” he said.

“That creates a period of time for the UK to essentially come to a cross-party agreement and ratify the agreement.”

He said the cross-party talks in the UK were enough to convince EU leaders that enough progress had been made to grant the extension.

“There is a sense that they might be successful but if they are not successful then there is a fall-back option.

“So from the point of view of everyone around the table today that was adequate to prevent no deal on Friday and we are giving them more time.

“The European Union is not a prison, nobody has to stay – but it is also a home and we are not going to kick anyone out either.”

Hugely frustrated

Mrs May admitted that many people were ‘hugely frustrated’ by her latest extension request but insisted it was the only way to avoid a no-deal scenario.

“The UK should have left the EU by now and I sincerely regret the fact that I have not yet been able to persuade parliament to approve a deal which would allow the UK to leave in a smooth and orderly way,” she said.

"But the choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear.

"So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest."

Brexit

She said the UK could avoid the need to hold European Parliament elections on May 23rd if MPs approve the EU Withdrawal Agreement in the first three weeks of next month.

She is due to update the House of Commons on the summit later today.


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