Short extension 'only possible if MPs say yes to deal'

Close-up of French centrist politician Emmanuel Macron

President Macron has taken a tough stance today, saying the short Brexit extension requested by UK Prime Minister Theresa May is only possible if the UK parliament approves the negotiated deal – otherwise “we will be heading towards a no-deal”.

Taking questions after arriving in Brussels for a European Council summit at which decisions will be made on Brexit, President Macron said the EU could agree a short extension if there is a “yes” vote in the British parliament next week.

“We must be clear, to ourselves, our British friends and our people. Firstly, we’ve been negotiating the withdrawal agreement for two years. It cannot be renegotiated. Secondly, in the event of another ‘no’ vote in Britain, we will be heading towards a no deal. Everyone knows it,” he said.

Such a vote would also be dependent on the MPs being permitted to hold a vote in the first place, since House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said on Monday parliamentary rules mean there cannot be a debate and vote on the deal again after it was rejected for a second time on Tuesday last week, unless something has 'substantially' changed.

Mrs May yesterday wrote to the leaders asking for a short extension, saying she could not accept one longer than the end of June which would require the UK to vote in the EU elections again. The leaders of the 27 EU states are set to discuss her request this evening.

Mrs May said today she is still “working on ensuring Parliament can agree a deal so we leave in an orderly way”.

This comes as a petition to the UK government and parliament to cancel article 50 and call off Brexit has gathered almost 1,100,000 signatures.

One week ago, following MPs votes both against the deal and leaving with no-deal, Mrs May put a motion before the UK parliament proposing to seek an extension, which was accepted by 412 to 202.

Her motion noted that if the MPs approved the deal by March 20 [yesterday] she would seek an extension ending on June 30 for purposes of passing necessary legislation before leaving, but that if the MPs had not done so it was highly likely the European Council would require a clear purpose, not least so as to work out how long it should be, and that an extension beyond June 30 would require the UK to elect MEPs.

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