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Brexit Article 50: Tusk to ask EU to consider long extension


European Council President Donald Tusk has said he will appeal to EU leaders “to be open to a long extension” of the Brexit deadline, if the UK needs to rethink its strategy and get consensus.

His intervention came as UK MPs were set to vote on seeking to postpone the 29 March deadline to 30 June.

EU leaders meet in Brussels on 21 March and they would have the final say.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that if her Brexit deal is not approved a longer extension may be necessary.

After two resounding defeats in the House of Commons, she will make another attempt to push her Withdrawal Agreement with the EU through next week.

All 27 other EU nations would have to agree to an extension, and Mr Tusk, who is the bloc’s summit chairman, will hold talks with several leaders ahead of next week’s Brussels meeting.

While European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted that any postponement “should be complete before the European elections” at the end of May, Mr Tusk made clear a longer delay was on the cards.

Presentational white space

While he did not specify the length of the delay, officials suggested it would have to be at least a year if the UK prime minister’s deal was rejected a third time.

Mr Tusk said earlier this year that the EU’s hearts were still open to the UK if it changed its mind about Brexit. He provoked an angry reaction from pro-Brexit supporters when he said there was a “special place in hell” for those who had promoted Brexit “without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely”.

So at this crucial point, what do Europe’s leaders think about extending Article 50, the two-year treaty provision that the UK invoked on 29 March 2017?

Germany losing faith but keen to help

Jenny Hill in Berlin

“A lot of the trust is gone.” Among business and political figures in Berlin, there’s growing frustration, even anger, at developments in Britain.

Nevertheless, Germany is likely to do all it can to help facilitate the orderly Brexit which Angela Merkel insists is still possible.

The German chancellor won’t be drawn publicly on whether she would support an extension to Article 50, but it’s widely accepted here that she and her government would be willing do so.

There are those who believe that support should be conditional upon Britain’s ability to outline its reasons and expectations before such an extension is granted. And there are significant concerns about the impact of a longer extension upon the EU elections but Germany’s interests lie in avoiding a no-deal Brexit – and the damage that could wreak on the German economy.

Its government will do what it can to achieve that aim. Read more

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Brexit Article 50: Tusk to ask EU to consider long extension