British Prime Minister Theresa May has written to the European Union (EU) asking for an extension to Article 50 up to the end of June, just before the newly elected European Parliament sits for the first time.
May’s position is not liked by some in her party, with Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Sam Gyimah arguing that a short extension raises the chances of a no deal Brexit by 60 percent and that for a party that has said it does not want to withdraw from the EU without a deal that is “downright reckless.” It leaves the choices for Parliament between May’s deal and no deal.
In Europe the mood is hardening, with the President of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Junker, signalling that the EU should not allow an extension beyond 23 May, the date of the European elections to Parliament, unless the UK is prepared to take part in European elections.
It is unclear at this time whether the 27 remaining EU countries will agree to such a short extension because, as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, asked – would a short extension increase chances of May’s agreement? Does the UK want time to change the “political decoration,” that is to allow MPs to come around to the idea of voting for May’s deal?
The mood in Parliament was furious today, 20 March, as recriminations flew at Prime Minister’s Question Time. May told Parliament, “This House has indulged itself long enough on Brexit” and that she would not seek a longer extension, presenting herself as a defender of the British public and of the British democracy. May said a longer extension would allow Parliament to “contemplate its navel” for a longer period of time.
The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, fired a salvo back at May telling her that there is a “a full-scale national crisis,” adding that after “months of running down the clock and a concerted campaign of blackmail, bullying and bribery she has failed to convince the House or the country of her deal.”
Some MPs believe that May has again caved in to the right wing of her party, mainly in the Cabinet this time, which saw a reportedly tumultuous meeting of the so-called pizza club group late last night, at which May would not reveal to her own Cabinet whether she would ask for a long or short extension.
Ministers on the right of the party made it clear that any long extension would see them resign from her Government, according to reports from the BBC.
May expects to return her deal to Parliament next week for a third meaningful vote.