- The European Council’s president, Donald Tusk, on Monday said delaying Brexit would be a “rational solution.”
- Tusk said that he discussed a delay with May on Sunday and that European Union countries would show “goodwill.”
- Downing Street is resisting calls for a delay.
- The House of Commons is not due to vote again on May’s deal until days before Britain is due to crash out of the EU.
LONDON – Delaying Brexit would be a “rational solution” to avoiding a “chaotic” exit from the European Union, the European Council’s president said on Monday, the clearest sign yet that Brussels would welcome an extension.
The council’s president, Donald Tusk, said he had discussed the “legal and procedural context of a possible extension” with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday.
“It is absolutely clear that if there is no majority in the House of Commons to approve a deal, we will face an alternative chaotic Brexit or an extension,” he told journalists in Egypt.
“The less time there is until the 29th March, the greater is the likelihood of an extension. This is an objective fact, not our intention, not our plan.”
“I believe that in the situation we are in an extension would be a rational solution.”
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29. The prime minister once again delayed a parliamentary vote on her latest Brexit deal this week, however, to head off another heavy defeat.
MPs are not expected to vote again on the deal until March 12, just 17 days before Britain is due to crash out without a deal.
Tusk said May had resisted his suggestion of an extension. “Prime Minister May still believes she is able to avoid this scenario,” he said.
But in the clearest signal yet that the EU would approve a delay, Tusk also said other EU member states would “show maximum understanding and goodwill” to the proposal.
Tusk’s comments followed reports that senior EU figures had come to favour a lengthy extension – by about two years – of the Article 50 process through which Britain is due to leave the EU.
“If leaders see any purpose in extending, which is not a certainty given the situation in the UK, they will not do a rolling cliff-edge but go long to ensure a decent period to solve the outstanding issues or batten down the hatches,” one EU diplomat told The Guardian.
A representative for May on Monday said the prime minister did not want to delay Brexit.
Speaking in Egypt, May said “any extension of Article 50 isn’t addressing the issues.”
She added: “A delay is a delay.”
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