- The European Union is preparing for a one-year delay to Brexit.
- European Council President Donald Tusk backs a 12-month “flextension” that would end once the United Kingdom seals a deal.
- However, senior members of Theresa May’s Cabinet are prepared to quit if a long extension is agreed.
- May is expected to write to the EU as early as Friday to set out her plans.
LONDON – The European Union is preparing to offer the United Kingdom a one-year Brexit delay if Theresa May fails to ratify her Brexit deal in the coming week, according to multiple reports.
European Council President Donald Tusk is ready to offer the UK a 12-month “flexible” extension that could end earlier once UK MPs agrees a withdrawal deal, senior sources have told the BBC.
The delay means that Britain would not be due to leave the EU until March 31 2020, Sky News report.
The offer has been labelled as a “flextension” in an apparent attempt to help the prime minister, who has previously refused to countenance the idea of a long extension, to sell the plan.
However, the Article 50 process, through which the UK is due to leave the EU, already allows a member state to withdraw from the bloc early once an agreement is reached.
The prime minister is expected to write to the European Commission as early as Friday to set out her plan for a potential extension.
Any extension would need to be agreed unanimously by EU member states and approved by the UK parliament, under the terms of a backbench bill currently working its way through the Houses of Parliament.
Some member states, including France, are sceptical about a long extension.
Senior members of May’s Cabinet are also reportedly poised to quit if she requests a long extension that takes the UK beyond the upcoming European Parliament elections next month.
May and Corbyn talks stall
The prime minister and her senior ministers have spent the past two days in intensive talks with the opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team about a possible compromise which could allow her deal to pass next week.
However, sources confirmed that there had so far been no concrete offer from the prime minister, who has said she is willing to compromise, with Downing Street also playing down the possibility of an imminent deal.
“I wouldn’t get too excited,” a senior Labour source told Business Insider.
However, talks are due to continue on Friday with May expected to write to the Labour leader with a firmer offer in the coming days.
If talks do fail, May has promised to put a series of Brexit options to Parliament which could include remaining in the Customs Union or offering a “confirmatory” referendum on her deal.