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EU will only grant Brexit extension if May wins MPs approval - Tusk

By Oliver Haill

Date: Wednesday 20 Mar 2019

EU will only grant Brexit extension if May wins MPs approval - Tusk

(Sharecast News) - Theresa May's request for a short Article 50 delay got a cold shoulder from European Union counterparts on Wednesday, while Parliament held an emergency Brexit debate.
After receiving May's letter asking for a three-month delay to the Brexit deadline, European council president Donald Tusk said a short extension will be possible - but only if the House of Commons votes for the government's withdrawal agreement. He did not rule out a longer extension.

As MPs have twice voted down May's Brexit deal, by 149 votes earlier this month and by 230 votes in January, this seems unlikely, even if the government finds a way to circumvent parliamentary rules preventing a third vote unless significant changes are made.

Earlier, it was reported that EU leaders will not make a decision on May's request at Thursday's summit, a senior EU diplomat told Ireland's RTE, but will agree a common line on what assurances to demand from the PM. Another senior diplomat said May's letter had arrived "too late" for EU leaders to make a decision on an Article 50 extension at the summit, according to a tweet from The Sun's Brussels reporter.

Sterling rebounded from earlier lows, but was still down 0.5% against the dollar for the day at 1.3200 and 0.4% versus the euro to 1.1637.

House of Commons speaker John Bercow granted a request from Labour's Shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer for an emergency debate on May's request to extend Brexit talks.

Following an objection from one Conservative MP, more than 40 MPs supported having a debate and Bercow said debate should take place later on Wednesday.

Earlier, May shared details of the letter she had sent to the EU, requesting a three-month delay to the Article 50 deadline, and told the Commons that she is "not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30 June".

But European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told May that the withdrawal has to be complete by 23 May, when EU elections begin.

EU documents leaked to Reuters showed that officials unwilling to extend the deadline beyond 23 May unless the UK accepts a much longer delay.

One EU official also said May's letter was not what the bloc had been expecting.

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