Brexit extension will be conditional, Tusk tells May

The British prime minister has asked for a Brexit delay until the end of June but this will not be granted by the EU unless the UK parliament approves withdrawal deal

EU council president Donald Tusk
EU council president Donald Tusk

A short extension to Brexit will be possible but only if the British parliament approves the current withdrawal agreement, Theresa May has been told.

The UK is expected to exit the EU on 29 March with or without a deal, unless the EU 27 accedes to the British prime minister’s request for an extension.

However, EU council president Donald Tusk this evening said an extension will only be possible if British MPs approve the current exit deal by next week.

The British parliament has twice rejected the withdrawal deal negotiated by May’s government but has also voted against existing the EU without an agreement.

The EU has repeatedly insisted the deal concluded last November cannot be renegotiated.

The leaders of the EU 27 will be meeting tomorrow to decide on whether to grant the UK an extension. Any decision would have to be unanimous.

May has asked for an extension until the end of June but a top European Commission official has told MaltaToday any extension, if at all, is unlikely to go beyond 23 May when elections for the European Parliament start to be held. Elections across the bloc will happen between 23 and 25 May.

“The commission will advise against any extension that would go beyond the 23 May because it risks destabilising the institutions. If the extension goes beyond this date the UK will have to organise the EP election,” the official said.

In any circumstance, the UK is likely to need more time to pass legislation to be ready for a no deal scenario.

But the mood is not an accommodating one within EU institutions, with the official insisting it was the UK’s problem if it was not prepared for Brexit by 29 March.

“Brexit will not be smooth, it is not easy and will be felt by all. It is economically bad but the EU has prepared for it and it can take it. If the UK is not prepared it’s their problem,” the official said.

The European Commission is satisfied with the level of preparedness in all 27 member states for a no deal Brexit.