LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May has written on Friday to the European Union requesting an extension to the pre-Brexit period until June 30 in order to avoid a no-deal withdrawal.
May, who has led the Conservative Party’s minority government throughout the UK’s Brexit negotiation with the European Union, acknowledged in a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk that she had struggled to get her withdrawal deal through Parliament.
“It is frustrating that we have not yet brought this process to a successful and orderly conclusion,” she said.
May proposed that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, a mechanism that set in motion a two-year negotiation period aimed at setting the foundations of a future relationship, be extended to June 30.
However, the time frame could be brought to an early end should the UK government find a way to ratify the withdrawal deal, which has already been signed off by the EU, before then, May suggested.
Meanwhile, sources in Brussels told EFE that Tusk was to offer May a two month extension in which to resolve the impasse, while other reports had suggested this period could be extended for up to a year.
The proposal has already coined a new term in the growing list of Brexit jargon in the UK: flextension, a merger of flexible extension.
A prior agreement to delay Brexit from March 29 to May 22 was predicated on the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of lawmaking, passing May’s withdrawal deal.
MPs rejected the package, the result of over two years of drawn-out discussions, for a third time on March 29, the day the UK was due to officially leave the EU.
In a series of so-called indicative votes, lawmakers also rejected all alternative forms of Brexit and no-Brexit tabled in the House.
So, unless the EU signs off on this latest request for extra time, the UK was on track to leave the bloc on April 12.
A major stumbling block in the proposal to extend Article 50 until June 30 was the uncertainty as to whether the UK would have to take part in the European Parliament elections slated for May 23.
“The Government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the UK to withdraw from the EU before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible,” May said.
The EU was yet to give an official response to May’s letter, however, several media outlets quoted a senior EU official as saying Tusk had on Thursday evening proposed his “long but flexible extension.”
The former Polish PM was reported to have offered the extension that could be brought to an early close should the UK secure the required parliamentary majority.
Tusk has called a European Council summit for April 10.
May’s attempts to push her flagship withdrawal deal through the Commons has been hindered by the opposition and pro-Brexit MPs in her own ranks reticent to lend their support.
In a meeting with barons within her Conservative Party before the third meaningful vote in late March, May told them she was willing to stand down before the next phase of Brexit should they help pass her withdrawal deal through the Commons.
It failed and now May was tasked with finding an alternative Brexit route.
She announced earlier this week that she would collaborate with the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to draw up a plan that could deliver a parliamentary majority.
Some 52 percent of the 46.5 million people who voted in the 2016 referendum chose to leave the EU.