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2nd Mar 2024

Brexit vote prompts Tusk to seek further extension

  • Tusk says the latest extension demand won't require an EU summit (Photo: European Parliament)

European council president Donald Tusk said he will press for a Brexit extension after UK lawmakers demanded more time despite reaching a deal on leaving the European Union.

"I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension. For this, I will propose a written procedure," said Tusk in a tweet on Tuesday (23 October), meaning there will be no special EU summit.

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The announcement came amid a marathon session in Westminster earlier on Tuesday in which British MPs approved prime minister Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement Bill by 329 votes to 299.

The move augured the end of more than three years of debate following previous rejections of bills floated by Johnson's predecessor Theresa May.

But the same MPs then scuppered Johnson's immediate plans to leave by the end of October after they demanded more time to mull over the agreement.

The move collided with Johnson's political gamble to leave the European Union on 31 October no matter what, a date that he has repeatedly promised would be met.

He has since been forced by MPs to pause the legislation, jeopardising his deadline.

"I will speak to EU member states about their intentions. Until they have reached a decision - until we reach a decision, I will say - we will pause this legislation," said Johnson.

The length of the planned extension is not yet clear, although a 31 January date may be a reference point. Johnson had over the weekend formally proposed it as a departure date to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

But a lengthy extension may also prompt Johnson to call for a general election.

Whatever the outcome, the issue of Brexit and the UK's internal back and forth has left some EU leaders exasperated.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing European Commission president, had during a debate with MEPs in Strasbourg, described it as a waste of time and a waste of energy.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, also spoke out.

"You're all thinking: another extension. I am thinking: another three weeks listening to Farage," he said in a quip to vocal EU-basher and Brexit party leader Nigel Farage, who is a member of the European Parliament.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who has said "Brexit is a lose-lose", has since been appointed to lead a new task force to rebuild the EU-UK future relationship.

"Brexit is not the end of the story. The UK remains our friend, ally, partner and we have to rebuild," he also told MEPs in Strasbourg.

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