Theresa May granted Brexit delay at EU summit
Europe has done it again. Despite French President's Emmanuel Macron's reluctance to give the UK a long Brexit extension, the EU leaders have agreed the apparently interminable process can be delayed until October 31, with a school report on Britain's behavior in June.
And while everyone is focusing on that Halloween deadline, it's really the June date that's the more significant.
Just three weeks ago, May told lawmakers in the House of Commons that she could not "as Prime Minister" delay Britain's departure from the European Union beyond June 30. After that, Britain would be obliged to send representatives to the European Parliament, where a new session begins on July 1.
Theresa May, remember, staked her premiership on delivering Brexit within the original two-year timetable of the Article 50 process. If she can't get it done by then, something will have to give.
It almost doesn't matter what that is -- a cross-party deal that allows a Brexit deal to pass, a second referendum to break the deadlock, a general election that finally sees off May. What's clear is that European leaders are done with the current impasse where the UK can't get its act together to leave, yet the EU is unwilling to force it out.
"The choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear," British Prime Minister Theresa May tells an early-morning news conference in Brussels.
"It's very clear that we will continue to abide by our obligations ... We will continue to abide by our duty of sincere cooperation."
"I'm clear that we should all be working now in the UK to make sure that we can find a way forward in Parliament ... to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement," she adds.
May repeats several times that she had hoped UK Parliament would ratify the Withdrawal Agreement. But she continues to stick to her main lines -- that Britain can still leave the EU earlier than October 31 if her deal with the EU is passed by lawmakers.
Theresa May says the ability of Britain to break the extension if it passes a deal was her "key request of my fellow leaders."
The British Prime Minister adds that the UK will not have to take part in European elections if parliament passes her Withdrawal Agreement.
If the UK can agree a deal by May 22, the country will not have to hold European elections.
"I know that there is huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension," she adds -- but repeats that the UK must leave in a "smooth and orderly way."
"We must now press on with pace" in achieving a consensus. She confirms she will be making a statement in the House of Commons on Thursday, and talks would be continuing with the Labour party.
"Nothing is more pressing or more vital" than finding a conclusion to Brexit, she says.
EU Council President Donald Tusk says he is expecting "sincere cooperation" from the UK during the extension period, adding that "we have only good experiences with Theresa May's government."
"I trust what Theresa May has declared today," he adds.
He also says the UK will be a full member state during the period, maintaining all of its rights. "The UK will continue its sincere cooperation as a full member state, with all its rights, and as a close friend and trusted ally in the future."
Juncker plays down fears that the UK will cause trouble within the EU during its extension period, joking that this is "nothing new." He adds that the ability of Britain to block decisions taken by the bloc is limited.
EU Council President Donald Tusk urges the UK, "please do not waste this time."
Speaking after announcing an agreed extension until October 2019, Tusk says the "course of action will be entirely in the UK's hands."
"I think it's always better to have a piece of something than a lot of nothing," Tusk adds in response to a question about whether enough progress can be achieved in six months. He adds that he is hopeful that a breakthrough can occur in that time.
The review in June is "only to update us on the progress" regarding the ratification process. "June is not for decision about extension," he adds. "My intention is not to discuss but only to inform he member states about the current situation."
"It's not a negotiation session," Juncker adds.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the summit was a "sometimes difficult" meeting.
"In June, when we meet again, we will not be re-negotiating among ourselves or with the UK," he says. "The Withdrawal Agreement must be respected in its entirety. We don't want the Withdrawal Agreement to be called into question."
"There will probably be European elections in the United Kingdom. That may seem a bit odd, but rules are rules," he adds.
Juncker also laments the lack of attention from the media about achievements from the EU that aren't related to Brexit.
EU Council President Donald Tusk confirms the details of the flexible extension in his news conference in Brussels -- an October 31 end date, with a review period in June.
He says the extension is shorter than he expected, but adds it can be ended early if Britain passes its Withdrawal Agreement.
"It can also reconsider the whole Brexit strategy," he adds -- but notes the Withdrawal Agreement is confirmed.
"Until the end of this period, the UK will also have the possibility to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit altogether," Tusk says.