Today, Theresa May, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, flew to Berlin to drum up last-minute support to extend the Brexit date to the 30th of June — and prevent Britain from crashing out of the European Union without a deal later this week.
PM May met with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for 90 minutes in the Chancellery in central Berlin, before PM May left for Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron, the French president.
It was reported by Deutsche Presse Agentur that during a meeting with the CDU faction in the Bundestag later this afternoon, Merkel disclosed that she would be open to a possible “flextension” to the end of the year or the beginning of 2020. Last week, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, suggested granting a flexible extension of up to a year to leave the bloc.
Today, Andrea Leadsom, the UK House of Commons leader, said that it would be “fantastic … if Angela Merkel will try to support a proper UK Brexit by agreeing to reopen the withdrawal agreement.” A spokesperson for the German government later denied that Merkel would be open to revisiting the withdrawal agreement.
While the 27 leaders of the European Union must make a joint decision on whether or not they will grant the petition of PM May for an extension, Merkel is considered to be a powerful influencer. At a press conference in Dublin last week, the German chancellor said that she would try to avoid a no-deal Brexit “until the last hour.” She has also emphasised that a no-deal Brexit would damage the national interests of Germany too.
This morning, the lead Brexit negotiator of the European Union, Michel Barnier, said that the United Kingdom could stop a no-deal Brexit by revoking Article 50, however, he maintained that the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened. He added that an extension on the withdrawal date would require a clear purpose.
PM May faces a tougher task of convincing a sceptical Macron to back her request for another delay. Last week, the French president expressed his frustration with the government of Britain. He argued that the European Union cannot continue to be “held hostage to the resolution of a political crisis in the UK.” He seems to be open to extending the Brexit deadline if the United Kingdom abides by strict, clear conditions.
The desperate dash of PM MAy to France and Germany comes ahead of a special meeting of the leaders of the European Union on Wednesday in Brussels, where they will approve the short delay — or not.
If a Brexit extension goes beyond the 23rd of May, the United Kingdom will be required to participate in the European parliamentary elections. Last Monday, the British government said that it had taken the legally required steps to take part in the elections, however, it noted that “it does not make these elections inevitable, as leaving the EU before the date of election automatically removes our obligation to take part.”