European Union leaders have given U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May until April 12 to find a new way forward for Brexit if her withdrawal agreement is rejected again by parliament next week, removing the threat of an imminent, chaotic exit for Britain on March 29.
After seven hours of talks in Brussels between May and the remaining 27 EU member states on Thursday, president of the European Council Donald Tusk said “the U.K. government will still have a choice of a deal, no-deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50”, The Times reported.
If May’s preferred deal is approved next week, the EU will give the government until May 22 to agree Brexit legislation. However, it remains unclear whether or not John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, will allow that third vote to take place without substantial changes to May’s existing proposal.
In the event that the deal does go ahead and is rejected again and the prime minister cannot present an alternative Brexit plan before April 12, the U.K. will be forced to choose between a no-deal Brexit and a longer extension, which in turn would mean the U.K. must participate in European parliamentary elections.
“April 12 is a key date in terms of the U.K. wondering whether to hold European parliament elections. If it has not decided to do so by then, the option of a long extension will immediately become impossible,” Tusk said.
If May has to return to Brussels to seek out a longer extension, EU officials will impose further conditions, such as holding a general election or a second referendum, according to The Times.
This could open up a chance for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, to be voted into power.
After talks with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier last night, Corbyn said he was “determined” to avoid a “crash out”. He refused to rule out a move to revoke Article 50 as a way of preventing a no-deal exit, according to The Sun.
Corbyn said he was seeking cross-party agreement on a “future relationship with the EU that could be negotiated during an extension period”.
An online petition calling on the U.K. government to revoke Article 50 was nearing 3 million signatures on Friday morning.
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Brexit Brief: Europe throws Theresa May, and the U.K., a lifeline – MarketWatch