The President of the European Council Donald Tusk offered Thursday to ask the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU) to accept a "long" extension of Brexit if the United Kingdom requests a new negotiation strategy.
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"During my consultations ahead of the European summit [next Mar. 21 and 22 ], I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the U.K. finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it," Tusk wrote on his Twitter account.
This offer was made on the same day that the British Parliament will vote if the U.K. should ask the EU for an extension on its departure from the economic block, which is set for March 29.
The British Parliament ruled out Wednesday leaving the EU without an agreement under any circumstances, which means that a Brexit delay is the only viable option.
Nevertheless, the parliamentarians also rejected the "Malthouse compromise", which called for delaying the break until May 22 so that the U.K. could prepare for a non-negotiated exit.
In order to prolong Brexit negotiations, however, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May would have to make a reasoned extension request to the EU27 partners, who must approve it unanimously.
"First we have to receive a reasoned request, which then will be in the hands of the EU leaders," Margaritis Schinas, Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission, said.
However, the EC spokesman recalled that the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that Brexit should be completed before the European Parliament elections, which are to be held between 23 and 26 of May.
If the U.K. has not left the EU by then the British government would be obliged to call elections like the rest of the Member States, according to the EU treaties.
The decision of the EU17 "will have to ensure the functioning of European institutions and take into account the reasons and duration of a possible extension," Schinas said.
Stated differently, the European Parliament elections pose an obstacle to extending the Brexit period.