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EU Council President Donald Tusk supports a ‘long’ Brexit delay

Submitted by on 14 Mar 2019 – 15:00

Hours ahead of a parliamentary vote on whether the UK should seek an Article 50 extension, European Council President Donald tusk has said he is open to a “long” delay to Brexit if the UK needs time to rethink its approach, and has agreed to seek the support of member states to back a delay if required.

“During my consultations ahead of (the EU leaders’ summit next week), I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it,” Tusk tweeted.

The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has reportedly insisted that any delay should complete before the European Elections at the end of May. However, Tusk has indicated that a longer delay was on cards, without specifying the length of delay.

Any extension might require unanimous consent of all EU member states, while some of them are more positive than others.

Noticeably, Tusk was not the first EU diplomat to support a longer extension;  last month Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar also purportedly said he would rather be open to a “long extension” than the UK leave without a deal.

French president Emmanuel Macron has said he would veto and extension to Article 50 that was not based on “a new choice of the British” and which had “a clear objective”.

The EU leaders will consider the situation at a regular meeting of the European Council in Brussels, which is scheduled for Thursday and Friday next week.

Following the vote to reject a no-deal Brexit, paving the way to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has now requested for one more week to save her deal.

Parliament will now vote on a motion next Wednesday to pass a Brexit deal.

If a deal is passed by then, the government will reportedly seek an extension of article 50 until 30 June. If no deal has been passed by then, the government will need a longer extension, which will require the UK to take part in the upcoming European elections in May.

In Wednesday’s vote, MPs voted by 321 to 278 in favor of a motion to rule out leaving the EU with no deal on March 29, following a motion to prevent the UK from exiting the EU on 29 March without a withdrawal agreement. Minutes before that, they backed an amendment tabled rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances – by just four votes.

An EU spokesperson has reportedly said that the EU is prepared for Brexit extension requests, though a longer extension could also raise the hopes of second referendum campaigners.

At the request of the European Parliament and the Council, the European Commission proposed contingency measures to mitigate the effects of a withdrawal of the UK from the EU without an agreement.

These measures include legal safeguards for current Erasmus students and teachers in or from the UK to complete their ongoing learning activity abroad, continued funding of EU programmes building cross-border and cross-community relations in Ireland and Northern Ireland and provisions for maintaining basic air and road freight and bus services between the EU and the UK. They should furthermore enable EU and UK fishing vessels to temporarily continue to operate in EU and UK waters.