10 December 2019

Brexit delayed? PM May requests three-month extension, EU pushes back

KONFRONTASI-Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected divorce deal though parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.

May said Britain remained committed to leaving the European Union “in an orderly manner” and she wanted to postpone Britain’s departure to June 30.

But a European Commission document seen by Reuters said the delay should either be several weeks shorter, to avoid a clash with European elections in May, or extend at least until the end of the year, which would oblige Britain to take part in the elections.

The pound fell sharply as May requested her extension.

Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and nine days before the formal exit deadline, British politicians are still arguing over how, when or even if the world’s fifth largest economy should leave the bloc it first joined in 1973.

When May set the March 29 exit date two years ago by serving the formal Article 50 divorce papers, she declared there would be “no turning back” but parliament’s refusal to ratify the withdrawal deal she agreed with the EU has thrust her government into crisis.

Now May has written to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for a delay.

“As prime minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th of June,” May told a rowdy session of parliament.

“I have therefore this morning written to President Tusk, the president of the European Council, informing him that the UK seeks an extension to the Article 50 period until the 30th June,” she said.

She said she planned to ask parliament to vote a third time on her departure deal, which lawmakers have already voted down twice. She didn’t say when the vote would happen.

But May did say delaying Brexit did not rule out the possibility that Britain could leave without a deal.

The opposition Labour Party said by choosing a short delay May was forcing British lawmakers to decide between accepting a deal they have already rejected or leaving without a deal.

Pro-Brexit members of May’s Conservative Party are opposed to a longer delay because they fear it could mean Brexit might never happen.

 
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