European council president Donald Tusk has been urged “not to delay” responding to the UK’s request for a new extension to Article 50.
On Monday, the European Commission said it was considering a request, made by the UK government at the weekend, for an extension. The appeal, made in a convoluted manner by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, comes despite Johnson saying he would never make such a request.
The EU is reportedly considering offering Britain what’s being called a “flexible” extension. However, No further details on this have yet been released.
The latest developments come following a tumultuous day in London on Saturday when the House of Commons postponed approval of the Brexit deal.
As a result, Johnson wrote, via two letters, to EU Council President Donald Tusk requesting a further delay to the UK’s departure for the EU.
Tusk has said he will consult Member States, but this could take “a few days.”
The campaign group New Europeans has raised concerns that Tusk might delay responding to any such request from the UK, should it be forthcoming.
Such concerns are shared by Anand Menon, director of UK in a Changing Europe, who noted, “I can’t see the EU Council refusing. They don’t want a No deal and they certainly don’t want to be blamed.”
“I do think there is a serious risk that the EU will not respond as quickly as it might for fear of the impact that it decision will have on political developments in the UK” Roger Casale, CEO of New Europeans
However, EU ambassadors are not due to meet until next Sunday morning, 27 October, just four days before the UK is due to leave the EU.
Georgina Wright, a senior researcher from the Institute for Government think tank, said that the EU has four options: The first would be to reject any Brexit extension that the UK asks for, in a bid to "focus minds in Westminster" with a no-deal exit on October 31.
The second would be to wait and see what the UK Parliament does next and then make a decision. This is thought the most likely.
She says that, thirdly, the EU 27 could offer a short extension to mid-November to allow for all the legislation to be voted on. A No deal could still happen if this deadline is missed. Finally, the EU could offer a long delay - possibly into 2020.
She said, “This could be done if MPs indicate they want to hold a second referendum.”
"Without a working majority – and now without the goodwill of the DUP – the Government cannot continue for much longer without a General Election. Passing a deal before then would mean that Remain is taken off the table, but the future relationship is still open for debate" David Shiels of Open Europe
In a letter to Conservative MPs, Johnson that he would “not negotiate an extension with the European Union" and went on to say “perhaps our friends in the European Union will reject Parliament’s request for further delay (or not take a decision quickly).”
Speaking to this website, Roger Casale, CEO of New Europeans and a former Labour MP said, “Such a delay would generate a huge wave of anxiety and uncertainty. Worst affected would be ‘the5million’ citizens whose lives are in limbo (EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in Europe)”.
“I do think there is a serious risk that the EU will not respond as quickly as it might for fear of the impact that it decision will have on political developments in the UK. Foremost in the mind of the EU council, however, should be the rights and well-being of ‘the5million’ – the people it has made it a priority to protect. The sooner it can decide the better, from the perspective of citizens.”
His group has launched a petition calling on Tusk to respond quickly to Boris Johnson’s letter.
Meanwhile, David Shiels, of the think tank Open Europe, said, “Even if Johnson can get the support of MPs to pass his deal by 31 October (or shortly afterwards), the Government will still need to go to the country before trade talks with the EU can begin in earnest.”
“Without a working majority – and now without the goodwill of the DUP – the Government cannot continue for much longer without a General Election. Passing a deal before then would mean that Remain is taken off the table, but the future relationship is still open for debate.”