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EU takes control of Brexit date as May flounders at summit

By Frank Prenesti

Date: Friday 22 Mar 2019

EU takes control of Brexit date as May flounders at summit

(Sharecast News) - Theresa May lost control of the Brexit departure date on Thursday as EU leaders agreed a short postponement despite an appeal for a three month delay from the British prime minister.

At a summit in Brussels, the European Council agreed to an extension until May 22 "provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons next week".

"If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council," the final text stated.

It added that the EU should "work to be continued on preparedness and contingency at all levels for the consequences of the United Kingdom's withdrawal, taking into account all possible outcomes".

Council President Donald Tusk said "all options remain on the table ... the UK government will still have a chance of a deal, not deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50" until 12 April.

"The 12th of April is a key date in terms of the UK deciding whether to hold European Parliament elections. If it has not decided to do so by then, the option of a long extension will automatically become impossible," he told a news conference.


May's poor performance before the bloc's 27 leaders was described as "90 minutes of nothing", the Guardian reported, citing an unnamed EU source.

"She didn't even give clarity if she is organising a vote. Asked three times what she would do if she lost the vote, she couldn't say. It was awful. Dreadful. Evasive even by her standards," the paper reported one aide to a leader as saying.

When asked what she was going to do if her deal was voted down, May said she was following her plan A of getting it through parliament.

It was then that the EU decided that "she didn't have a plan so they needed to come up with one for her", the source added.

Earlier in the week, May wrote to the EU asking for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline until 30 June and said the UK did not want to hold EU elections.

Following a speech by May in Downing Street on Wednesday evening, in which she blamed MPs for twice refusing to accept her deal, the likelihood of the government winning support for the Withdrawal Agreement seems low.


The pound had earlier slumped 1.2% against the dollar to just above 1.30 and 0.6% versus the euro to below 1.15 before recovering after the final Council decision.

Earlier, Britain's employers and unions called on May to abandon her uncompromising stance and seek consensus to avoid a "reckless" no-deal Brexit, with a joint letter from the heads of the CBI and TUC.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn and TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady wrote to May on behalf of millions of workers and thousands of businesses

They said: "Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar. Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come."

The call comes as an online petition to revoke the Article 50 process and remain in the EU had been signed by more than 2 million people.

(Reporting by Oliver Haill and Frank Prenesti)


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