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News > United Kingdom

EU Offers 12-Month Brexit Delay, May Wants a June 30 Deadline

  • European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019.

    European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 April 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May wants to complete her country's exit from the European bloc before the European Parliament elections to be held in July.

The President of the European Council Donald Tusk will ask the European Union to grant the United Kingdom a "flexible" 12-month extension to Brexit, in an effort by the bloc's president to avoid further requests for short extensions.

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"We could give the U.K. a year-long extension, automatically terminated once the Withdrawal Agreement has been accepted and ratified by the House of Commons,” an EU source told Reuters and added that “if this were not possible, then the UK would still have enough time to rethink its Brexit strategy... while avoiding the need to meet every few weeks to further discuss Brexit extensions.”

The so-called 'flextension', however, has a potentially problematic side effect: a long extension would force the U.K to organize elections to the European Parliament on May, an event for which the British government is already making "legal and responsible preparations".

Nevertheless, Tusk would propose this flextension as an altenative to the request of the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who Friday requested to delay the Brexit until June 30, just a couple of days before July 2, when the next European Parliament is sworn-in.

“The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on June 30... The government will want to agree on a timetable for ratification that allows the U.K to withdraw from the EU before May 23 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections,” PM May wrote in a letter addressed to Tusk, acknowledging that the U.K. government “will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should [ratification] does not prove possible.”

In any case, Tusk' proposal must be considered by the 27 EU countries, who will then decide on any Brexit extension unanimously at their next summit on April 10. Any extension must be approved by all the bloc's 27 countries. 

The first Brexit extension granted to the U.K. expires next Friday, on April 12, which would mean that the U.K. would leave the economic block without a deal if a new extension is not granted.

In addition, so far none of the alternatives has managed to avoid another politically sensitive deadline: according to the British electoral commission, the U.K has until April 15 to officially notify the European Union about its participation in the European elections.

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