Following a significant setback last week after UK’s lawmakers comprehensively rejected the Withdrawal Agreement prepared by Prime Minister Theresa May, she formally requested a short delay to Brexit on Wednesday, three years after the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union.
PM May sent a letter to EU leaders formally appealing to put Britain’s departure from the European bloc until June 30, three months after the deadline.
According to the current rules on EU exit, the United Kingdom should leave the European Union at 11 p.m. London time on March 29 – with or without a deal. To put a delay on the apparent exit, all 27 members states of the European bloc should accept the request. Theresa May is scheduled to visit Belgium today to discuss the options with her Brussels counterparts.
In the letter addressed to European Council President Donald Tusk, UK’s May said that she had warned UK lawmakers that the consequences of their second rejection of her plan to leave the EU were “unpredictable and potentially unpalatable.”
Last week, UK legislators voted to reject May’s second Withdrawal Agreement by 149 votes. They also ruled out leaving the EU without a deal and supported an extension of Article 50 – the legal mechanism to take the UK out of the bloc.
It was confirmed that the Prime Minister is set to bring in her third version of the Withdrawal Agreement to the House of Commons amide the surprise intervention from Commons Speaker John Bercow earlier this week. According to Bercow, May’s third deal should be “fundamentally different” to hold another vote.
Critics have since predicted the formal request of May to delay Brexit. On February 24, the female leader suggested that the parliament may not be able to cast ballots on her Brexit deal until March 12, just days before Britain formally leaves the European Union (EU). According to experts, this decision opens a door for MPs to move by next week to delay Brexit beyond March 29 and to avoid a potentially disastrous situation where Britain exits with no agreement at all.
According to the Prime Minister, she was still discussing with the EU any possible amendments to the deal’s arrangements for the Irish border. May sought to address the concerns about the deal’s ‘backstop’ arrangements, which is designed to keep the border with Ireland free-flowing after the MPs rejected her withdrawal deal last month. Nonetheless, the second version of the agreement was rejected by UK lawmakers and that she still has to propose a new set of Withdrawal Agreement for the third time and that she’s running out of time.
Unfortunately, opposition leaders and pro-European MPs in London violently reacted at what they believe is a delaying tactic. Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said her move not to delay votes was “the height of irresponsibility and an admission of failure.” “Theresa May is recklessly running down the clock in a desperate attempt to force MPs to choose between her deal and no deal,” he said.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier previously warned that the bloc would not grant any delay without a “concrete plan” from Britain about what it planned to do with the extra time.
According to an official EU document, the European Commission opposes extending British members of the EU to June 30. The executive arm of EU reportedly said on Wednesday that it would be politically and legally difficult for the United Kingdom to extend its exit date by three months.
The document reveals that EU officials are faced with a ‘binary choice’ between a short delay from March 29 to before May 23 or a long delay until the end of the year. If the UK remains in the bloc beyond May 23, it is obliged to take part in the European elections for European Parliament lawmakers on May 23rd.
However, the prime minister downplayed the claims that the UK wants to partake in the EU elections citing that it is not of their interest.
“I do not believe that it would be in either of our interests for the UK to hold European Parliament elections,” May said. She also denied that there is an intention to delay Brexit any further than June 30. /apr