US President Donald Trump laments European Union toughness on Britain after Brexit delay

Clay Curtis
April 11, 2019

European Union leaders agreed to grant British Prime Minister Theresa May a new Brexit deadline of October 31, officials said, after French President Emmanuel Macron opposed efforts to give her another year.

However, as European Council chief Donald Tusk stipulated earlier this month, as well as Tuesday night in a formal letter on the eve of the summit, he is pushing for member states to offer a one-year "flexible" extension to Article 50 with the option to withdraw any time during that period, if United Kingdom parliament comes to an agreement.

Macron's push for a June Brexit and strong opposition to other leaders' preference for a much longer extension that might increase the chances of Britain changing its mind to stay in the bloc meant the meeting ended up with the October compromise.

May has embarked on a last-ditch battle to postpone Brexit from April 12 to June 30 so as to arrange an orderly departure - but European leaders are expected to offer her a longer delay of up to a year.

The six month Article 50 extension is hugely damaging to Theresa May's Premiership.

Earlier on Wednesday, Macron had tweeted: "What is essential: nothing to compromise the European project".

Sir Bill Cash, Conservative MP for Stone and Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, had already said that he may challenge a long extension in court.

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European Union leaders spent a long dinner meeting wrangling over whether to save Britain from a precipitous and potentially calamitous Brexit this Friday, or to give the departing nation a shove over the edge.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker added that: "No deal would be a disaster - everyone knows that".

On Wednesday evening, EU ministers took part in a Special European Council in Brussels and chose to give the United Kingdom a flexible Brexit extension until 31 October.

May agreed a divorce deal with the European Union last November but MPs in London have rejected it three times, forcing her to turn to the main opposition Labour party in a bid to find a way through.

Mrs May added: "I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy, or there is a simple way to break the deadlock in parliament".

Despite the new agreement, May's future is uncertain. Many Conservative Party lawmakers would like her to quit now and let a new leader take charge of the next stage of Brexit. But they can't force her out of office until the end of the year, after she survived a no-confidence vote last December. Labour has indicated it favored a softer Brexit than the government has proposed and wanted to retain a close economic relationship with the bloc. The two sides said they would resume their discussions Thursday. Others argued that an even longer extension could spook May's pro-Brexit critics into backing her deal for fear Brexit might stall.

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