European Union Council President Donald Tusk said on Monday that he discussed the potential legal and procedural effects of a possible Brexit delay with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May and that the extension of the Brexit deadline would be a “rational solution.”
In the aftermath of the first EU-Arab League summit in Egypt, Tusk stated that it is apparent that May lacks the majority in the House of Commons to approve the previously agreed Brexit deal and that the alternative to this would either be a “chaotic breakup” from the bloc or the extension of the so-called Article 50.
“The more uncertainties – the greater the chance for the extension,” Tusk said.
He added that Theresa May believes she can secure the majority for the crucial Brexit vote, but that “maximum understanding and goodwill” between two parties will be maintained no matter which scenario unfolds in the near future.
The emergence of the idea of a 21-month delay to Brexit will be seen by some as an attempt to push Brexiter MPs into backing May’s deal.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barner, had advised ambassadors last week that the threat of a lengthy extension could be used by May as leverage in talks with her Brexiter MPs as she seeks to nudge the deal through parliament.
May is meanwhile driving on with seeking legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement to reassure Brexiters of the temporary nature of the Irish backstop, which would keep the UK in a customs union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who will hold talks with May on Monday in Egypt, dismissed claims made earlier on Sunday by Michael Gove, the environment secretary, that a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism from the Irish backstop could still emerge from the talks.
“A backstop that includes a time-limit is not a backstop at all. Nor would a unilateral exit clause work for us,” Varadkar said.
Image: Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and European Union Council President Donald Tusk.