Sunday

1st Oct 2023

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

Punish Belarus too for aiding Putin's Ukraine war

While Belarus has not sent its own troops to fight Russia's war in Ukraine, the Minsk dictatorship has been heavily involved. As a result, Belarus must be punished for its involvement — what can the world do to sanction Belarus?

Latest News

  1. EU women promised new dawn under anti-violence pact
  2. Three steps EU can take to halt Azerbaijan's mafia-style bullying
  3. Punish Belarus too for aiding Putin's Ukraine war
  4. Added-value for Russia diamond ban, as G7 and EU prepare sanctions
  5. EU states to agree on asylum crisis bill, say EU officials
  6. Poland's culture of fear after three years of abortion 'ban'
  7. Time for a reset: EU regional funding needs overhauling
  8. Germany tightens police checks on Czech and Polish border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  2. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  2. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  3. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  4. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us