EU leaders are ready to grant May an extension but insist UK will be locked out of key decisions

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EU leaders are ready to grant May an extension but insist UK will be locked out of key decisions


Holding their ground: British Prime Minister Theresa May with French President Emmanuel Macron after Brexit talks at the Élysée Palace in Paris. Photo: PA
Holding their ground: British Prime Minister Theresa May with French President Emmanuel Macron after Brexit talks at the Élysée Palace in Paris. Photo: PA

Britain will be told to stay out of key EU decisions in the year ahead if a Brexit extension is to be granted today.

EU leaders are minded to give Prime Minister Theresa May more time to find a consensus in London – but will attach strict conditions.

They will require the UK to hold European Parliament elections next month and then to take a back seat when the EU budget is being brokered.

The UK’s MEPs could also be locked out of discussions on the new Common Agricultural Policy and the election of the next President of the European Commission.

Draft conclusions drawn up ahead of the EU meeting in Brussels tonight say the UK should only remain in the union “as long as necessary”.

The exact exit date has been left blank but the UK will be kicked out on June 1 if elections aren’t held.

The conclusions add: “The United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the union’s objectives.”

In a letter on the eve of the emergency summit, EU Council President Donald Tusk urged EU leaders to resist the urge to humiliate the UK.

He noted some countries have “raised concerns” about the continued influence of the UK while they wait to leave the bloc.

“To address them, we would need to agree on a number of conditions: no re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement; no start of the negotiations on the future, except for the Political Declaration; the UK would have to maintain its sincere cooperation also during this crucial period, in a manner that reflects its situation as a departing member state,” he said.



EU Council President Donald Tusk called for mutual respect. Photo: REUTERSEU Council President Donald Tusk called for mutual respect. Photo: REUTERS

EU Council President Donald Tusk called for mutual respect. Photo: REUTERS
Points of view: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is believed to differ from France’s Emmanuel Macron on the Brexit delay. Photo: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A similar message was sent out by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who told the Dáil some of his EU colleagues are “frustrated” and “increasingly concerned that Brexit is taking up so much of the EU agenda”.

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However, he expressed confidence that an extension will be granted.

The House of Commons approved a government motion on the extension request by 420 votes to 110 yesterday, a majority of 310.

Those opposed to the plan included 97 Conservative rebels, with former Brexit secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab among them.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland told MPs they “must find a way to find a plan for the way forward” to leave the EU with a deal and outlined how the UK would be legally required to take part in elections if it remains a member state on May 23.

But he suggested British MEPs may not have to take their seats even if they are elected – should Westminster agree a deal in the coming weeks.

“The new European Parliament does not meet until early July and therefore it is important for us to distinguish the need to have elections and then the requirement for British MEPs to have to actually sit in the European Parliament if we are indeed to leave the European Union before early July,” Mr Buckland said.

Mrs May met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday, who are believed to have varying views on the type of Brexit delay that should be offered.

In his letter, Mr Tusk said the UK should be allowed time to rethink its Brexit strategy and asked EU leaders not to be influenced by “negative emotions”.

“We should treat the UK with the highest respect, as we want to remain friends and close partners, and as we will still need to agree on our future relations. Neither side should be allowed to feel humiliated at any stage in this difficult process,” he said.

Mr Varadkar, who will take a central role at tonight’s gathering, said he accepts the UK is leaving.

But he added: “Whatever happens, if the United Kingdom does leave the European Union, and I expect that it will, I think we should always leave a light on for them should they ever decide to come back.

“Ultimately, the United Kingdom is part of Europe and if it ever wishes to return, even if it is 10, 20 or 30 years’ time, I think we should welcome it with open arms.”

Irish Independent

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