The leaders of the European Union are set to grant the United Kingdom a long extension of Article 50 — the mechanism that notifies the bloc that Britain will leave the European Union— at an emergency summit that is scheduled today.
Last Tuesday, Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, went on a whistle-stop tour of France and Germany to shore up the support from two of the most influential officials of the 28-nation bloc to delay Brexit until the 30th of June. However, as Donald Tusk, the European Council chief, stipulated earlier this month, as well as last Tuesday night in a formal letter on the eve before the summit, he is calling for member states to offer a one-year “flexible” extension to Article 50 with the option to withdraw any time during the said period, if the UK parliament comes to an agreement.
PM May is anticipated to head to Belgium immediately after her weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons, where Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader, and his Labour party is set to grill the prime minister on all matters, not just Brexit.
The emergency summit in Brussels is set to start at 6 pm local time and PM May will formally present her case to the remaining 27 member states. The leaders of the European Union will then go to dinner without May and discuss their response.
If the leaders of the bloc reject the Brexit delay proposal or if they do not go with the proposition of Tusk for a long Brexit delay, the United Kingdom will leave the bloc without a deal at 11 pm local time on Friday, the 12th of April.
Any Brexit delay does not mean that the negotiations will reopen between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Extending Article 50 to the 30th of June or even by a year effectively just gives PM May more time to strive and push through the withdrawal agreement that she already negotiated with the bloc. She has attempted to pass it four times before and it has been rejected every time.
In his letter, Tusk wrote: “Our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June.”
He added: “In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates. This, in turn, would almost certainly overshadow the business of the EU27 in the months ahead. The continued uncertainty would also be bad for our businesses and citizens. Finally, if we failed to agree on any next extension, there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit.”
He noted: “This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension.”