May hints at accepting EU offer of longer delay

British Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that she would accept the EU’s likely offer of a lengthy Brexit delay at a summit of leaders as the UK would still be able to leave when the withdrawal agreement is approved.

Arriving in Brussels, the prime minister said it would still possible for Britain to quit by May 22 if the Commons chose to approve her Brexit deal in the coming weeks.

May is expected to have her request for a limited extension to June 30 rejected by the EU27 in favour of a longer potential delay to Brexit of up to a year.

The EU is split 50:50 on whether to offer an extension to the end of the year or March 31, 2020. The prime minister has previously said that she could not countenance the UK remaining an EU member state after June 30, and had wanted to keep pressure on MPs to back her deal by creating another cliff-edge date.

But May told reporters in Brussels that the UK would still be able to leave the bloc under the EU’s likely offer — once parliament had approved the 585-page withdrawal agreement and 26-page political declaration on the future. She said: “The purpose of this summit is to agree an extension, which gives us more time to agree a deal to enable us to leave the EU in that smooth and orderly way.

“What matters, I think, is I have asked for an extension to June 30 but what is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify a withdrawal agreement. So we could leave on May 22 and start to build our brighter future.”

Just two days away from a potentially calamitous nodeal Brexit, European Union leaders opened talks yesterday to discuss granting the United Kingdom a new delay — possibly of up to a year — to its departure from the bloc.

It’s likely to be a rough day for British Prime Minister Theresa May as she pleads for a second extension until June 30, to prevent Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU this Friday.

European Council President Donald Tusk has suggested an even longer delay of up to a year, with conditions attached to ensure Britain does not stymie EU decision-making if it remains a member.

According to the latest draft conclusions yesterday, Britain would have to act “in a constructive and responsible manner throughout this unique period” of extended withdrawal, and would have to show “sincere cooperation.” It would have to act in “a manner that reflects its situation as a withdrawing member state.”

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU has “expectations” of Britain so that EU institutions can continue functioning “seamlessly.”

The issue has come up after some British Conservative politicians threatened to become obstructionist. One of them, Mark Francois, said that if the UK remained in the bloc, “then in return we will become a Trojan Horse within the EU.”