Live Updates

Theresa May and EU agree Brexit delay

By Bianca Britton and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 8:10 p.m. ET, March 21, 2019
20 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:44 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Petition to revoke Article 50 passes 1 million signatures

More than 1 million people have signed an online petition urging parliament to revoke Article 50 and prevent Brexit.

The call went viral after Theresa May's speech on Wednesday night, with the vast majority of signatures coming in less than 24 hours. The traffic has caused parliament's official petitions site to crash repeatedly on Thursday.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 people have been simultaneously viewing the petition, with nearly 2,000 signatures being completed every minute, the website said.

Several lawmakers have also urged people to add their names to the petition.

"An issue as big and important as Brexit should not come down to petitions -- that said, if you are frustrated that the PM is just not listening, you can sign here," SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon wrote on Twitter -- where #RevokeA50Now is the top trending topic in the UK.

11:04 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

We'll be back next week if deal fails, Juncker says

JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has suggested that an emergency EU summit could be called next week if British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal is defeated a third time.

"In the event the Withdrawal Agreement will not be approved by the House, we have to come back," Juncker said.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, indicated that May's request for a delay until June 30 was unlikely to find support among EU leaders today.

"The longest extension we can agree is before the European Elections." he said.

11:10 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Long Brexit extension likely, says Alastair Campbell


Alastair Campbell, a pro-Remain campaigner and former spokesman for ex-British PM Tony Blair, has told CNN he believes parliament and European leaders will stop Britain from crashing out of the EU with no deal next week.

Asked if a no-deal Brexit becomes unavoidable if Theresa May's meaningful vote fails for a third time next week, Campbell said: "I think that is what she would like people to think, and it is reckless."

"I don't believe the EU or British MPs will allow (no deal) to happen," Campbell added. "If - when, I believe - she loses the vote then we are in the possibility of a longer extension."

"Theresa May is already in British history as the winner of the biggest and the fourth biggest parliamentary defeats of all time. And yet she still thinks somehow that this miserable and wretched deal she’s done, which would be so damaging to Britain, will get through," Campbell said.

He added: "Our negotiating strategy was basically to say we can get everything we've got now and it won't be any different. The Europeans have been extraordinarily restrained in the face of the nonsense they've had to face. But now we come into crunch time."

10:31 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Why the EU can't say what everyone is thinking

Analysis by Luke McGee in Brusssels


Here in Brussels, outside of the European Council building where EU leaders are meeting, all the talk is about what happens when – not if – Theresa May loses the third vote on her withdrawal agreement next week.

But you won't hear any of that in public when, as expected, the EU grants Theresa May a short extension to the Brexit process later today. That's because the EU cannot be seen to be interfering in the internal politics of nation – especially one about to leave the Union.

The EU could, of course, suggest a longer extension. But that would almost certainly mean the UK taking part in elections to the European Parliament, something neither side wants. And a longer extension would only be offered on the proviso that the UK is able to present a credible alternative plan to May’s.

Considering the current deadlock in Westminster, the only way out of this seems something drastic: A change of leadership, a change of government, a second referendum. But the optics of the EU even suggesting that could be toxic.

Rumors are swirling that certain Members of Parliament – some of whom are not members of the leadership of either main party – could be invited to Brussels for crunch talks with EU negotiators the day after the vote, should it fail.

But the optics of this would have to be managed carefully – the EU seizing control over Brexit from a sitting Prime Minister and handing it to lawmakers is not a great look, either.

So, while everything that is said and done at this summit is important, the expectation here is that the fallout from it could be a descent into the next circle of Brexit hell.

10:29 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Tusk meets May in Brussels

EU Council President Donald Tusk has tweeted a picture of him meeting with Theresa May in Brussels.

10:29 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Macron: Britain is heading for no-deal Brexit if vote fails


A third defeat for Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal in British Parliament next week would send the country hurtling towards a no-deal exit, French President Emmanuel Macron has warned.

This is what Macron told reporters as he arrived at the EU summit in Brussels.

“In case of no vote -- or no -- I mean directly it will guide everybody to a no deal for sure. This is it."

The EU might agree to a “technical extension” of Article 50 if UK parliamentarians approve Theresa May’s Brexit deal, he added.

“We can agree if it’s a technical extension in case of a yes vote on the agreement we negotiated over two years,” Macron said, but added that there would be no extension to the withdrawal process if there is no clear majority in the UK parliament for the deal.

Macron acknowledged that it would be disrespectful to ignore the fact that the British people voted for Brexit three years ago. 

"We do respect the vote of British people. We do respect what the Prime Minister and parliament are [doing]."

10:38 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Europe has little hope for May's deal, diplomat tells CNN

From CNN's Erin McLaughlin in Brussels


There's frustration and exasperation in Brussels, an EU diplomat tells CNN, with ambassadors holding little hope that a third meaningful vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal will pass parliament next week.

The general view among EU ambassadors, who met on Wednesday evening, leans towards some kind of conditional, short extension. There’s no unanimous view on how long that extension would be, but things on the European side – as we reported earlier – appear to be more or less coalescing around May 22, the day before European elections are due to begin. Some member states have signaled that they'd be open to a longer extension, the diplomat adds.

Nonetheless, European leaders want to see what Theresa May is going to say at today's summit. They’d like to hear a strategy or how she’s going to get this vote through.

The diplomat questions whether May is in control and points to yesterday’s formal request for a delay by the UK as an example.

This is what the diplomat said:

“You could see that the letter was rewritten several times. It was not as fluid as you’d expect."

Leaders will likely spend some time at this EU summit discussing what happens if May fails to get her deal through parliament a third time next week. But don’t expect a decision on what the EU will do in that scenario. The diplomat notes that it's a decision that can only be made once the circumstances are known

It's clear the EU doesn't want to be seen as the facilitator of a hard Brexit, fearing chaos in Britain and Ireland and a negative economic impact on other member states. It’s easy to see why an extension is preferred, the diplomat noted.

9:37 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

The ball's in parliament's court, says Dutch PM

Mark Rutte (left) with Donald Tusk on Thursday.
Mark Rutte (left) with Donald Tusk on Thursday. FRANCOIS LENOIR/AFP/Getty Images

A no-deal Brexit would be "catastrophic" for Britain's economy, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned as he arrived at the EU summit in Brussels.

But the UK Parliament must make the first move to break the Brexit impasse and secure an extension, Rutte told reporters.

"Now the ball has to be in the court of the British Parliament, they first have to say yes" to May's Withdrawal Agreement, Rutte said. "If the British Parliament might say yes, lock stock and barrel to everything on the table, then Europe understands that technically you need time to implement everything in laws and other legal stuff."

"My assumption is today we will nod "yes," in principle, then put this fairly and squarely at the door of the British Parliament to make that call -- to say 'yes' to the whole thing in the what-if scenario."

"If they say no again, I’m not going to speculate," Rutte added.

9:03 a.m. ET, March 21, 2019

Theresa May arrives at EU summit

Theresa May speaks to reporters after arriving at the EU summit.
Theresa May speaks to reporters after arriving at the EU summit. JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Theresa May has arrived in Brussels for the crucial summit of European leaders, where she will make the case for her requested extension until June 30.

She refused to rule out taking Britain out of the European Union without a deal in eight days' time, but continued to pressure MPs into supporting her Withdrawal Agreement next week.

Here's what she told reporters about Brexit:

"I’m here today to discuss with fellow leaders our request for a short extension of Article 50 to the end of June. As I said yesterday, this delay is a matter of personal regret to me. But a short extension would give Parliament time to make a final choice that delivers on the result of the referendum.
What is important is that parliament delivers on the result of the referendum and we deliver Brexit for the British people. I hope we can do that with a deal. I am still working on ensuring that Parliament can agree on a deal so we can leave in an orderly way. What matters is that we deliver on the vote of the British people.
What matters is that we deliver on the vote of the British people. What matters is that we recognize that Brexit is the decision of the British people. We are nearly three years on from the original vote, it is now the time for parliament to decide."