Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Brexit delay looms as European officials signal support for short extension

Donald Tusk said he wanted to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal

Boris Johnson insists the UK must leave the European Union by October 31. AFP
Boris Johnson insists the UK must leave the European Union by October 31. AFP

European Council President Donald Tusk has recommended EU members accept a Brexit extension as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson considered renewing his push for a general election before Christmas.

Mr Tusk, who spoke to Mr Johnson by phone on Wednesday, said he wanted to prevent a potentially disruptive no-deal Brexit, which many fear could send the UK plunging into a recession.

On Tuesday, MPs voted in principle to support Mr Johnson’s withdrawal agreement from the EU but rejected his fast-tracked timetable to debate the bill saying there was not enough time to scrutinise it. The development reduced the chances of Brexit happening by October 31, when the UK is currently set to leave the EU.

The prime minister has said he would seek a general election if his timetable for the Brexit withdrawal bill was rejected but he requires two-thirds of MPs support to do so. Leaders of the main opposition party Labour, say they will back an election when a Brexit extension is agreed.

Mr Johnson has said Brexit must take place by October 31, even without a divorce agreement, but was forced to ask Brussels for a delay because of legislation enacted by MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit. On Wednesday he reiterated his opposition to another delay.

“In a phone call with PM Boris Johnson I gave reasons why I’m recommending the EU 27 accept the UK request for an extension,” Mr Tusk tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. In an earlier message he said he would propose the Brexit delay by “a written procedure,” which means there is no need for member states to meet for a summit.

While an extension is not due for a couple of days, Irish leader Leo Varadkar said he would support the move by Mr Tusk.

“We need to know: What will be the reason for this?” German foreign minister Heiko Maas told news channel n-tv.

“If it will be about pushing back the date by two or three weeks to allow lawmakers in London to implement the ratification of the exit bill in a reasonable way, I think this will rather not be a problem,” he added.

Updated: October 23, 2019 08:29 PM

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