Prime Minister Theresa May will write to the European Council President Donald Tusk asking for a Brexit extension until the end of June, but will no longer ask for a long delay. A spokesperson for Number 10 said, “There is a case for giving Parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward, but the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now,” adding, “They are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration.” This comes after MPs rejected the Withdrawal Agreement a second time last week while also ruling out leaving the EU without a deal, and voting for an extension of the Brexit process. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker commented about the UK’s request for an extension, “I assume that we will not be able to reach a decision this week but that we will have to meet again next week,” adding, “The European Council could meet again next week but patience is wearing thin.” Education Secretary Damian Hinds told BBC Radio 4 this morning, “I don’t see how a long delay gives certainty. Actually we’ve had long time already… People are a bit tired of waiting for Parliament to get our act together and get the deal passed,” adding, “Unless and until a deal is finalised, there remains the prospect of the risk of No Deal.”
A spokesman for May yesterday said that she has an “absolute determination” to make sure the UK “leaves with a deal as soon as possible,” adding, “She has said in the House of Commons she does not want there to be a long delay and that taking part in European election [in May] three years after Britain voted to leave would represent a failure by politicians.”
Elsewhere, the Telegraph reports that there were divisions in the Cabinet yesterday over the length of any Article 50 extension. One source told the paper that Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom accused colleagues of failing to deliver Brexit; another said that Leadsom, along with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, declared they would prefer a No Deal Brexit to a long delay. Speaking on LBC Radio this morning, Leadsom said it was “absolutely essential” that the UK leaves the EU before the European Parliament elections this May. This comes as Theresa May is due to address Conservative MPs at this afternoon’s weekly meeting of the 1922 Committee.
Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told BBC Radio 4 that ministers are giving the House of Commons Speaker’s decision on holding a third vote “serious consideration,” adding that he is confident they will “find a way” to get another vote on the Withdrawal Deal.
Elsewhere, the former director of legal affairs at Downing Street, Nikki da Costa, told the Today programme, “I think the PM and the Government can still have a third meaningful vote… but it will be extraordinarily difficult to have a fourth meaningful vote, so I think MPs really have to think very carefully if that vote does come back.”
Meanwhile, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, said the party continued to have “good discussions” with the Government but there were still “big gaps” in the negotiations. However, HuffPost UK reported yesterday that Government talks with the DUP have stalled, with the party not prepared to back the deal unless they are sure it can pass the House of Commons. A DUP source said, “Just as other parties have been reluctant to switch their votes, you would only expect the DUP would take the same approach.”
Open Europe’s Henry Newman told the Financial Times that Theresa May “has less control of the timetable [of the vote] than she had previously… But if she can command a majority for her deal, she can command a majority to set aside any precedent of the House [of Commons].” He is also quoted by The Atlantic on the issue of mistrust towards the EU in the UK, saying, “There is a group of critics for whom the EU is essentially a hostile actor, and they are almost pathologically determined to see bad motivation behind everything it does.”