Wednesday , January 20 2021

EU will grant Brexit extension if Johnson sends letter, says Brussels – The Guardian, Theguardian.com


The EU will grant a further Brexit delay beyond 31 October if a letter of request is received fromBoris Johnson, but the bloc will not make the first move, senior officials in Brussels have said. )

Shortly after the Commonsput the prime ministerunder a legal obligation to seek an extension, a spokeswoman for the European commission called for clarification from Downing Street.

“The European commission takes note of the vote in the House of Commons today on the so-called Letwin amendment, meaning that the withdrawal agreement itself was not put to vote today,” she said. “It will be for the UK government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible.”

It will be up to the heads of state and government to approve any request, a process that will be organized by Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

A spokesman for Tusk declined to comment. Ambassadors for the EU 27 will meet on Sunday morning to discuss the latest developments.

Speaking in the Commons, Johnson told MPs he did not believe the EU would be minded to offer a further extension and that he would not negotiate one.

But senior EU officials said it was clear during the discussions among the leaders at a summit on Thursday that “they would grant an extension”. “Even [the French president Emmanuel] Macron in the room didn’t suggest otherwise,” the source said.

The chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, Norbert Röttgen, who is a senior member in the same party as the German chancellor, Angerla Merkel, said he had “no doubt” an extension would be granted.

A consequence of the delay to theBrexitdeal being approved in parliament is that the European parliament’s plans to ratify the withdrawal agreement next week have also been left in doubt.

The European parliament will only ratify after the Commons has approved the deal. MEPs next sit on the 14 November, making 30 November a potential new Brexit day if the Commons is able to approve the deal by then.

Tens of thousands march for second Brexit referendum in London – video

Guy Verhofstadt, the coordinator of the European parliament’s Brexit steering group, said his committee would “consider the outcome of today’s vote for the Letwin amendment on Monday”.

He added: “Whatever happens next, the marches outside the parliament show just how important a close EU-UK future relationship is.”

The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, tweeted: “The EU & UK agreed a withdrawal agreement on Thursday that defends Ireland’s interests. The Commons voted today to defer a decision on whether or not to ratify that agreement.

“To date, no request for an extension has been made by the UK government. Should that happen, president Tusk will consult all 27 heads of state & govt on whether or not we will grant one. Extension can only be granted by unanimity. ”

Jean-Claude Piris, a former head of the EU council legal service, told the Guardian that Brussels would not “wait and see” but that “if asked” the leaders would “say yes”.

The Commons voted on Saturday that it would not approve the Brexit deal until all related legislation was passed. MPs were concerned that the legislation would not be passed by 31 October, leaving open the possibility of the UK accidentally crashing out.

That decision triggered the Benn act which placed the prime minister under a legal obligation to request an extension unless a deal had been approved by 11 pm UK time on Saturday.

The prime minister said he would not negotiate a further delay, and hinted that a request could be rejected in Brussels.

On Friday, Macron had tried to help Johnson cajole MPs into backing his deal by suggesting he was opposed to a delay. “I am not trying to read into the future but I do not think we shall grant any further delay,” he had said.

A spokesman for the Élysée Palace said that any further delay “was not in anyone’s interest”.

But EU sources said the private comments of Merkel, better represented the leaders’ position.

She had told EU leaders that a Brexit extension would be unavoidable if British MPs vote down the new deal. Merkel said leaders had a responsibility not to push the UK out without a deal.

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