Saturday 20 July 2019

Brexit delay: Formal talks take place between May and Tusk on implications of extending Article 50

  • Donald Tusk says both sides want to avoid a disorderly Brexit
  • Taoiseach confident Britain will leave EU with deal or seek extension
  • Expectations grow that Brexit will be delayed by between two months and two years
  • May to make statement tomorrow to update on negotiations
Prime minister Theresa May meets with EU Council President Donald Tusk at the EU-League of Arab States Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, EgyptStefan Photo: Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime minister Theresa May meets with EU Council President Donald Tusk at the EU-League of Arab States Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, EgyptStefan Photo: Rousseau/PA Wire
Mr Varadkar and Mrs May Photo: Maxwells
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Kevin Doyle in Sharm El-Sheikh

Formal talks on the implications of a delaying Brexit have taken place between British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Council President Donald Tusk.

Although Mrs May publicly insists she will take her country out of the EU on March 29, the idea of an extension to Article 50 is now firmly in play.

Prime Minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as they attend the EU-League of Arab States Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as they attend the EU-League of Arab States Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Tusk said he wanted to “end the speculation” by confirming that he met Mrs May yesterday and teased out the legal implications of a delay.

He said both sides wants to avoid a disorderly Brexit, meaning “an extension would be a rational solution”.

He noted that the British Prime Minister still believes she can get the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons.

At her press conference before leaving Sharm El-Sheikh, Mrs May said she remains focused on getting changes to the backstop so that the UK Parliament can have a new ‘meaningful vote’ before March 12.

"An extension to Article 50, a delay in this process, doesn't deliver a decision in parliament, it doesn't deliver a deal," May said.

"What it does is precisely what the word 'delay' says. It just delays the point at which you come to that decision. And I think that any extension of Article 50, in that sense, isn't addressing the issue. We have it within our grasp."

She added: "Any delay is a delay, it doesn't address the issue, it doesn't resolve the issue."” she said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar predicted that Britain will either leave the European Union with a deal on March 29 or seek an extension to Article 50.

Ahead of a one-to-one meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Egypt, Mr Varadkar sounded much more positive than in recent weeks.

There is a growing expectation in the UK that Brexit will be delayed by anywhere between two months and two years.

“What’s evident to me is that absolutely nobody wants the United Kingdom to crash out without a deal. It is a lose, lose, lose scenario for everyone,” Mr Varadkar said.

“That gives me confidence, or a sense at least, that the UK will not crash out without a deal on March 29. We’ll either have a deal or have an extension.”

The possibility of extending Article 50 was raised at a meeting between Mrs May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the fringes of an EU-Arab summit this morning.

It is understood Mrs Merkel brought up the issue and UK officials briefed afterwards that the discussion was not “substantive”.

"It wasn't something the PM raised," the official told reporters.

Also in Sharm El-Sheikh, Denmark's prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said his country will not stand in the way of a possible postponement.

I believe everyone will be flexible, no one wants the UK to leave the EU in a disorderly way," he said.

When asked what type of extension might be granted, Mr Varadkar said there are “different views”.

“The European Union can’t really consider any requests for an extension until that comes in and it hasn’t as yet.

“A lot of people, a lot of colleagues feel that if there is an extension, it should be an extension with plan rather than an extension just to continue negotiations which have already gone on for almost two years but my own view is that nobody wants a no deal exit by the UK on March 29.

“It doesn’t benefit the UK, it doesn’t benefit Ireland, it doesn’t benefit the European Union. And that is why I feel the chances are that won’t happen,” he said.

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