EU considers Brexit 'flextension' that could last until next year IF Boris Johnson fails to pass his deal this week, before then dissolving if he succeeds in the future
- The EU is considering a Brexit ‘flextension’ that could last until next year
- Brussels is still hoping PM can deliver on his promise of passing the legislation
- Three letters sent to EU on Sat after Commons voted to debate PM's deal further
- EU likely to convene emergency summit to decide whether to offer an extension
The EU is considering a Brexit ‘flextension’ that could last until next year – but will delay a decision until it has seen whether Boris Johnson has Commons backing for his new deal, it emerged last night.
Brussels is still hoping the Prime Minister can deliver on his promise of passing the legislation necessary to turn the deal into law within the next ten days.
This would negate any need for another delay beyond October 31 in the UK’s departure date. Following a meeting of EU ambassadors yesterday morning, one senior diplomat told the Daily Mail this would be the ‘best case scenario’.
Three letters were sent to the EU on Saturday night after the Commons voted to debate Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal further. The Prime Minister sent a letter to the EU requesting an extension, as required by the Benn Act – known formally as the European Union (Withdrawal) (No2) Act – but he did not sign it.
The Prime Minister sent a letter to the EU requesting an extension, as required by the Benn Act – known formally as the European Union (Withdrawal) (No2) Act – but he did not sign it
He also sent a second letter – which he signed – to EU Council president Donald Tusk, saying that a delay would be a mistake. The third letter was an explanatory one from Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU.
French president Emmanuel Macron is believed to be emphatically opposed to any further unnecessary delay.
But if the deal is voted down this week, or the legislation is scuppered by wrecking amendments, the EU is likely to convene an emergency summit to decide whether to offer Britain another extension – and for how long.
Donald Tusk started ringing EU leaders yesterday to assess their thoughts about another extension
Last night it emerged that one option being considered is to delay Brexit until January 31, as set out under the Benn Act, with the option of the extension dissolving away if the Commons passes Mr Johnson’s deal before then.
The ‘flextension’ could see Britain leave later in November, in December or earlier in January if the deal is passed before the extension ends, say diplomatic sources.
No decision will be made until EU leaders have had the chance to assess the chances of Mr Johnson’s deal getting through the Commons and how long that could take if MPs bombard the legislation with amendments.
According to EU sources, if MPs force a second referendum then countries led by Germany will push for a longer extension, potentially until June next year.
The first letter (pictured) was the letter demanded by the Benn Act, which asks the EU to delay Brexit beyond the October 31 deadline – but not signed by Boris Johnson – using the exact wording specified in the legislation
But if it is for any other reason it is unlikely an extension would be granted beyond January 31.
Peter Altmaier, Germany’s economy minister, cautioned against a long extension, saying prolonged uncertainty further endangers jobs and prosperity. ‘If an extension by a few weeks is necessary, I wouldn’t have a problem with it,’ he said.
The EU is not obliged to offer an extension. If the Withdrawal Bill’s passage through the Commons is relatively trouble-free, but still needs a few days or weeks beyond October 31 to pass, EU leaders are likely to grant a short ‘technical’ extension. This could be done without them holding a summit via the EU Council’s ‘written procedure’, with EU capitals granting approval ‘remotely’ either by letter or email.
In a separate letter to Donald Tusk, Mr Johnson made clear that he does not want the EU to grant a further Brexit extension
But if the Withdrawal Bill meets fierce opposition and looks unlikely to pass, EU leaders may opt for an emergency summit at the end of the month to consider a longer extension. This could last into 2020 if it was for an event like a general election. The remaining EU27 leaders have to unanimously agree for a delay to be granted.
Mr Tusk started ringing EU leaders yesterday to assess their thoughts about another extension. He aims to have spoken to all of them by tomorrow before making a call on whether to pencil in a summit before October 31.
The European Parliament is planning to press ahead with its own vote on whether to approve the deal on Thursday.