The EU won’t decide on a Brexit extension until next week, as it waits for MPs in Westminster to decide on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a snap election, senior EU officials and diplomats said Friday.
The bloc has agreed on the need to delay the current October 31 deadline, but there is still disagreement over how much time to give the U.K.
Council President Donald Tusk has called for granting the extension Johnson requested, in accordance with U.K. law, until January 31, but French President Emmanuel Macron has pressed for a shorter delay to keep strong pressure on Britain to ratify the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
EU27 diplomats met Friday morning and officials said that their discussions would continue through the weekend, with a decision to be taken either Monday or Tuesday.
While officials did not say that they are specifically waiting for the outcome of a vote Monday in the House of Commons on a snap election — announced by Johnson on Thursday — they have repeatedly demanded further clarity from London. A core challenge, however, is that Johnson’s political opponents have said they will not vote for an election until the Brexit extension is decided and a new deadline set for the U.K.’s departure.
The extension to the Brexit deadline will be conditional on the U.K. not acting to “jeopardize” the EU’s objectives.
It was not clear that the statements from Brussels — declaring an extension would be given but not yet saying for how long — would be sufficient to help Johnson secure the two-thirds majority needed to approve a general election on December 12.
EU diplomats also agreed that their decision would ultimately be made using a written procedure to avoid the need for heads of state and government to reconvene for another summit in Brussels next week.
“The meeting was constructive,” a senior EU official said. “There was full agreement on the need for an extension. There was full agreement to reach a unanimous, consensual EU27 decision. And there was full agreement to aim to take the decision by written procedure.”
“President Tusk has no intention to convene a special [summit],” the official said. “Work will continue over the weekend.”
A senior diplomat, confirming the outcome, said: “Decision to be taken on Monday and intention is to have it done by written procedure.”
Another diplomat said the meeting Friday lasted two hours and that there was consensus that an extension of some sort would be decided early next week. “Talks on the length of the extension will continue at the beginning of next week,” the second diplomat said, “also in light of developments in London.”
A third diplomat said: “We all agreed on an extension but there was not full agreement on the duration.”
The extension to the Brexit deadline will be conditional on the U.K. not acting to “jeopardize” the EU’s objectives and decision-making process, according to a seven-page draft decision discussed by ambassadors and seen by POLITICO. It also includes a provision stating that the U.K. should not use the delay for any effort to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.
That condition is identical to language included when the EU last granted a postponement, and in the meantime the Withdrawal Agreement was revised to include an entirely new protocol on Ireland.
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