Theresa May requested a further Brexit extension until June 30 to give the UK time to ratify any cross-party deal she is able to strike in the coming days.
In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, the UK prime minister said that while it is not in the interests of either the UK or the EU that her country take part in the European Parliament election scheduled for May 23 to 26, she would undertake preparations for the poll as a “contingency.”
EU27 leaders will meet in Brussels on Wednesday to agree their response. Unless they agree a further extension, May’s letter acknowledges, the legal default is that the UK will leave the EU at 11 p.m. on April 12 without a deal.
France, in the meantime, has reiterated its opposition to Britain being granted any further Brexit extension if it does not have a concrete plan with clear support in the Commons, saying that without one Britain must be deemed to have chosen to leave the EU without a deal.
“impasse is creating uncertainty and doing damage to faith in politics”
In the letter May says the Brexit “impasse” in the House of Commons is “creating uncertainty and doing damage to faith in politics, while the European Union has a legitimate desire to move to decisions about its own future.” Her letter accepts the legal obligation to hold the election in the UK if the country is a member of the bloc on May 23.
The prime minister said her talks with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as a broader “open invitation” to MPs who want to respect the 2016 referendum result show her government is “determined to bring this process to a resolution quickly.”
May said that if a Brexit deal were ratified before June 30, the UK should be able to leave the EU sooner.
“The Government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove to be possible,” May said.
UK officials say the country could cancel the poll as late as the day before, if necessary.
“No deal is no good for anybody”
The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš — one of the leaders who will decide next week whether to grant the extension — welcomed the move. “No deal is no good for anybody,” he told POLITICO, “I still hope for an orderly Brexit and I remain open even for a longer extension, but it cannot happen without UK participation in European Parliament elections. In that sense I welcome Theresa May’s constructive approach on this issue.”