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The EU to offer short Brexit delay if MPs back Theresa May's deal

Adam Payne , Business Insider US
 Mar 22, 2019, 12:08 PM
Prime Minister Theresa May greets European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images
  • The European Union is poised to offer to delay Brexit until May 22 if the United Kingdom Parliament backs the Brexit deal next week.
  • The offer falls short of Prime Minister Theresa May's request for a delay until June 30.
  • A majority of British members of Parliament have yet to signal their support for the deal.
  • EU leaders warn that Britain is heading toward a no-deal Brexit.

LONDON - The European Union is set to agree to give the United Kingdom a short delay to Brexit - but only if members of the UK Parliament vote for Theresa May's deal next week.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU in on March 29.

However, keaders of the 27 other EU member states on Thursday discussed xtending the Article 50 withdrawal process until May 22 to give the UK time to prepare for its departure, according to draft conclusions obtained by several news organisations.

The date coincides with the start of the European Parliament elections. However, the offer falls some way short of the three-month extension ending on June 30 that Prime Minister May had asked for.

There was reportedly disagreement among EU member states about the length of the extension, causing the meeting in Brussels to overun.

The European Council draft conclusions state that they would grant only a short extension if MPs approve May's deal with the EU next week. This looks unlikely, with opponents of the withdrawal agreement reluctant to budge.

The EU remains pessimistic about the prospects of May's deal winning the support of the UK Parliament.

One EU source told Business Insider: "[There is] no expectation here that the deal will pass after May's speech last night."

The EU is set to hold an emergency summit next week if May's deal is rejected for a third time.

Senior figures previously suggested that Brexit could be delayed for a much longer period of time if the UK can illustrate a clear purpose for doing so - possible options include a softer Brexit, or even a new referendum.

The council's decision came after the prime minister fielded questions from other EU leaders for well over an hour.

It followed French President Emmanuel Macron warning to UK MPs that voting down May's deal next week would "guide everybody" to a no-deal scenario, which is opposed by the UK government, the EU, and the vast majority of MPs in London.

He said a longer extension would be possible only if there was an offer of "deep political change" in the UK's Brexit plans.

MPs will attempt to take control of the Brexit process next week to avert a no-deal situation and push for a softer Brexit.

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