Campaigners hail confirmation of three-month Brexit extension
Organisations fighting to keep the door open for Britain to remain in the EU welcomed the decision by EU Member States to grant the UK a further Brexit extension to 31 January.
Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual
News of the three-month delay followed speculation that the French President Emmanuel Macron had favoured a much shorter period.
In anticipation of such a veto, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had proposed that a statue to the French president be erected should the EU only agree to a two-week extension.
However, during intense week-end lobbying, the French President appears to have reluctantly come around to the view that the EU27 needed to continue to act as one.
One campaign group, New Europeans, worked to mobilise support for a longer extension from deputies in the French National Assembly.
In a letter to members of the European Affairs Committee, Roger Casale, founder and Secretary General of New European wrote: "The stance your President is taking [by threatening to veto a three-month extension] simply exacerbates the emotional and psychological distress faced by citizens.”
“We ask you to do everything you can to encourage President Macron to agree to a delay until 31 January without further delay.”
The initiative followed the inaugural meeting of New Europeans Paris at the Maison de l’Europe.
“Are we any closer to the end of Brexit uncertainty? I do have doubts to say the least. Everything is still in the air on all sides of the political divide in the UK" Danuta Hubner MEP
Speaking after the meeting in Paris, Roger Casale said: “There is understandable frustration that Brexit has dragged on so long, but there is also real concern about the welfare of citizens.”
“Giving Britain more time to confirm the deal is the best way to ensure citizens are not the ones who end up paying the price of Brexit.”
The meeting was supported by the Mouvement Européen France, Les Jeunes Européens France and Europa United.
Marie Caillaud, President of Young Europeans France and Jerôme Quéré drew attention to the impact of Brexit on young people, while Frances Cowell of Europa United spoke about the impact of Brexit on business confidence and European security.
One speaker summed up the mood of the meeting by quoting the Jacques Brel song "Ne me quitte pas."
Despite news of the extension, it is far from clear that the UK would be able to obtain a further delay should it prove impossible to resolve the Brexit conundrum by 31 January.
Confirming the EU Council's decision, the outgoing President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said in a ‘farewell’ tweet: “The EU27 has formally adopted the extension. It may be the last one. Please make the best use of this time. I also want to say goodbye to you as my mission here is coming to an end. I will keep my fingers crossed for you.”
“I would like to have seen a longer extension, as the end of January loses a lot of time to Christmas holidays and the Tories have proven they're adept at wasting time” Alyn Smith MEP
As for MEPs, the mood was generally jubilant on news of the extension, as deputies expressed their sense of relief to this website.
UK Liberal Bill Newton Dunn said, “The Brexit sore has been harming the UK for far too long. I welcome the European Council’s extension until the end of January - and look forward to an early General Election in which the British must make a clear decision, which I hope will be to remain in the EU.”
Polish EPP member Danuta Hubner told this website, “Are we any closer to the end of Brexit uncertainty? I do have doubts to say the least. Everything is still in the air on all sides of the political divide in the UK.”
“Do we create more space for this to continue with our generosity in extending Article 50? Yes, we do, but still I believe this is what we should do. It brings some stability and some time, if one believes reflection helps reaching better decisions.”
“But it allows uncertainty to continue. For some it is damaging, for others it gives hope. In the current situation it is clear that if the preferred options of the British Prime minister do not go through, Westminster or the opposition will be blamed.”
She added, “Definitely we are not yet in the comfort zone of Brexit certainty. Frankly, I do not believe such a thing exists. Maybe Brexit is simply not doable. This is what big lose-lose processes should be.”
SNP deputy Alyn Smith said, "Obviously I welcome this extension, it will give us time to find solutions. Scotland voted to remain and anything that keeps us in is to be welcomed.”
“I would like to have seen a longer extension, as the end of January loses a lot of time to Christmas holidays and the Tories have proven they're adept at wasting time, but if this is all the Member States could agree to so be it."
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