EU agrees to Brexit delay but length depends on May's deal vote

May on Wednesday.
May on Wednesday. / EP
  • The EU leaders have given Theresa May an extension of two months if she can get her deal through Parliament. If not the UK has been given until 12 April to indicate a way forward and prepare for EU elections

The leaders of the 27 EU countries agreed on Thursday night to allowing the UK an extension to article 50 to delay its exit from the Union. Theresa was told, however that the UK can have until 22 May to organise legislation if prime minister Theresa May's deal is approved by MPs. If the House of Commons continues to reject the deal, however, the UK has until 12 April to indicate a new way forward and agree to hold EU elections in May, to be able to seek a longer delay.

The week in Westminster certainly gave marchers attending this Saturday's Put it to the People protest (calling for a people's vote on any brexit decision taken) plenty of fuel for thought. After MPs voted overwhelmingly for an extension to article 50 last week, on Monday, House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, rejected a third meaningful vote on Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement, stating that the deal had to be "fundamentally different - not in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance," for it to be heard again.

Following a statement on Wednesday evening, during which she once again urged politicians to unite behind her deal, May returned to Brussels on Thursday for the Spring EU summit to negotiate the extension with the leaders of the remaining 27 countries.

In an open letter to European Council president, Donald Tusk, May asked the Council to grant an extension until 30 June. However, the Council agreed to a shorter extension - until 22 May, just before the European Parliament elections - only if the deal can be approved..

A longer extension, on which a decision must be taken by 12 April if the deal is not approved, would mean the UK having to field candidates for the election. The EU has made it clear since the 2016 referendum that Brexit needs to have happened to avoid the UK having to hold elections.