Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

EU demands Brexit plan from May for delay

  • EU leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel (r), will want to hear a clear plan from May on Wednesday night (Photo: Council of the European Union)

British prime minister Theresa May held talks in both Berlin with German chancellor Angela Merkel and in Paris with French president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday (9 April) - a day before a crucial summit in Brussels where EU leaders will decide on any Brexit extension.

May has requested to delay the Brexit deadline until 30 June, beyond the existing Friday (12 April) - when the UK is set to leave the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

This came after a first, original, extension from 29 March.

May said in a letter last week that the UK would leave the EU earlier than 30 June, if the withdrawal agreement is ratified by the British parliament before that date.

The UK has also started preparations to hold European elections on May 23, which was an EU precondition for any extension beyond 12 April.

EU leaders need to decide unilaterally if to the grant the UK another extension.

Some of the member states, leading with France, are reluctant, fearing it could upset European elections in May, and undermine the EU's legal foundations if the UK were to stay an EU member while being half-way out of the door.

In Berlin, May outlined to Merkel the steps she was taking to bring "the Brexit process to a successful conclusion", and on discussions with the opposition Labour Party, May's spokeswoman said according to Reuters.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday that May needs to provide strong justification for the delay and a clear timeline of how she plans to use the extra time.

"This extension has got to serve a purpose," Barnier said after a meeting of EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg, adding that the EU is ready to give more time if cross-party talks in the UK can deliver a majority for the deal.

May last week started negotiations with the opposition, Labour, to get a majority in the House of Commons backing the withdrawal agreement agreed with the EU last November.

Customs union red line

One of Labour's key demands include keeping Britain in the EU's customs union, which EU officials said could be done easily by tweaking the political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship, attached to the withdrawal agreement.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, along with shadow Brexit minister Kier Starmer, have met in recent months in Brussels to pre-emptively explain their 'customs union' Brexit to EU officials, including Barnier.

Hardline Brexiteers, also within May's Conservative Party, however, reject staying in the customs union, which would prevent the UK from signing its own trade deals.

May has no overall majority in the parliament, and relies on the vote of a small group of Northern Irish Democratic Unionist MPs, even assuming all her own Conservative MPs vote with her.

The withdrawal deal has been rejected three times already by MPs in London.

Barnier stressed that the length of any second postponement beyond 12 April would depend on the reasoning presented by May.

"'No-deal' will never be the EU's decision. In order to avoid 'no-deal', the UK needs to agree to a deal," Barnier added.

In Luxembourg, EU affairs ministers discussed conditions for any long delay, which includes Britain holding European elections.

May also needs to commit to "sincere cooperation" - EU jargon for not undermining upcoming key decisions in the bloc, such as on the EU's long-term budget and the top jobs at EU institutions.

Arriving at the meeting, the German, Dutch, Irish and Luxembourg ministers made clear that a no-deal Brexit must be avoided.

"It's in the Dutch interest to avoid hard Brexit and if more time is needed to avoid no-deal Brexit, we should provide more time," Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said.

German EU state minister Michael Roth said, however, that "very strict conditions" must apply.

"I must, unfortunately, note that the conditions set […] have not been met," he said.

France' EU minister Amelie de Montchalin, however, warned that the extension is neither agreed, not "automatic".

May asks for Brexit extension until 30 June

British prime minister Theresa May asks the EU to further delay Brexit, until 30 June - which means the UK will start preparations to hold European elections. Meanwhile, EU Council president Donald Tusk mulls a year-long flexible extension.

EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'

EU leaders praised Theresa May's commitment to deliver an orderly Brexit - while they now brace themselves for an even more eurosceptic British prime minister.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  2. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  3. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  4. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  5. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  6. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades
  7. State intervention ends Norwegian oil and gas strike
  8. France repatriates 35 children from Syrian camp

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  2. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  3. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  4. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  5. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  6. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  7. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  8. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us