Brexit Delay 'Possible' If MPs Back Theresa May's Deal, Says Donald Tusk

The move will pile more pressure on the PM.

European Council President Donald Tusk has said Brussels will agree a short delay to Brexit if MPs back Theresa May’s deal.

It comes after the prime minister wrote to EU leaders asking them to extend Article 50 to June 30 as she struggles to get her withdrawal agreement through parliament.

“I believe a short extension will be possible,” he said. “But it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.”

The move will pile pressure on the government as they face a race against time to agree a deal with MPs.

The European Council will consider the extension at a meeting on Thursday.

May also hinted on Wednesday that she could resign if she is forced to seek an extension of Brexit beyond June 30.

Tusk, speaking in Brussels, said: “The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension.”

He added he did not foresee the extension triggering an extraordinary meeting of the European Council, saying: “If the leaders approve my recommendations and there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the decision on extension in the written procedure.

“However, if there is such a need, I will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council for a meeting to Brussels next week.”

Meanwhile in Westminster, MPs were taking part in an emergency debate on the Brexit crisis.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said May should have given a full statement to the Commons about her decision to write to Tusk about the delay.

“It is symptomatic of the way the Prime Minister’s actually approached very many Brexit issues, which is to push parliament as far away as possible from the process,” he said.

While Starmer did not outline how long an extension Labour would back, he said May should allow enough time to swerve a no-deal exit.

“She could, at this stage, act in the national interest and frankly show some leadership and take a responsible approach, which I think would be to seek an extension to prevent no-deal and provide time for parliament to find a majority for a different approach,” he said.

He added: “The Prime Minister still thinks that the failed strategy of the last two years, namely my deal or no-deal, a blinkered approach, no changes, no room for parliament, should just be pursued for another three months.”

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, meanwhile, said he thought no Brexit “is more fundamentally damaging to the country” than no-deal, when he was asked by the SNP’s Brendan MacNeil if he would revoke Article 50 if the UK faced crashing out.

“If you take it to its absolute extreme, and I’ve been very clear that I think both outcomes - no Brexit I think is usually damaging democratically and a no-deal is very damaging economically - of the two no Brexit is more fundamentally damaging to the country,” he said.


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