The leaders of the EU27 will meet at a European Council summit on Thursday and Friday, with Brexit on the agenda for the first day. It will be the last chance for such a major decision before the original intended Brexit day date of March 29.
Following yesterday’s vote by the British parliament, UK Prime Minister Theresa May will ask for an extension. However this will require unanimous agreement from the 27 leaders, which is not guaranteed as the EU’s chief negotiator and several leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have said there would need to be a good reason given.
EU Council President Donald Tusk has, however, given support to a ‘long extension’ to allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy. Options in the longer term might include agreeing to a softer kind of Brexit, holding a general election or a new referendum.
Mrs May is expected to give MPs another – third – chance to vote on the deal she agreed with the EU, on Tuesday next week. If it goes through she plans to ask for a short extension ending before the new MEPs take their seats in the EU parliament on July 2 after elections in May. She would argue that the time is needed to help prepare an orderly departure and commentators think the EU would probably agree.
If the deal is rejected by MPs again, Mrs May has warned that the EU is likely to only accept a longer delay, which would mean the UK would need to send new MEPs back to the European Parliament. The EU may also propose conditions.
If they refuse and the MPs persist in refusing the negotiated deal, the UK is on course for a no-deal Brexit in two weeks' time.
One further complication is that due to UK parliamentary rules the Speaker John Bercow could decide there should be no further debates and votes on Mrs May's deal as it has already been rejected and is not likely to have changed in any way by next week.
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