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EU hands Theresa May six-month Brexit extension and warns her not to 'waste time'

3 min read

Theresa May has been handed a six-month Brexit extension by the European Union - and warned not to "waste time" before the new 31 October cut-off point.

After a marathon six hours of talks among EU leaders, the Prime Minister - who was pushing for a 30 June exit date at the latest -  was offered a significantly longer delay than she had requested.

But the move, which is likely to trigger an angry backlash from Brexiteers, stops short of the year-long extension floated by European Council president Donald Tusk following a bid by French president Emmanuel Macron to rein in the delay.

The UK will also have the option of cutting short the extension at any time should the Prime Minister manage to persuade MPs to back a variation of her Brexit deal before the Hallowe'en deadline.

Speaking to reporters as the new deadline was unveiled, Mr Tusk said the outcome of the next six months was "entirely in the UK's hands".

"It can still ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, in which case the extension will be terminated," he said.

"It can also reconsider the whole Brexit strategy. That might lead to changes in the Political Declaration, but not in the Withdrawal Agreement.

"Until the end of this period, the UK will also have the possibility to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit altogether."

And he added: "Let me finish with a message to our British friends: this extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it's still enough to find the best possible solution. Please do not waste this time."


Mrs May meanwhile said she still wanted to leave the EU "as soon as possible" - and urged MPs to get behind her Brexit deal in a bid to avoid upcoming European Parliament elections which are due to take place on 23 May which could see huge losses for the Conservatives.

She said if Parliament backed her deal "in the first three weeks of May" the UK would leave on 1 June.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that there would be "huge frustration" at the delay, and expressed regret that she had "not yet been able to persuade Parliament to approve a deal which would allow the UK to leave in a smooth and orderly way".

But she refused to apologise for the new timetable when pressed by reporters, instead pointing the finger at MPs for refusing to back her deal.

"Over the last three months I have voted three times to leave the European Union," she said.

"If sufficient members of Parliament had voted with me in January we would already be out of the European Union.

"We haven't been able to get the majority in Parliament. As you know I have been reaching out to find a way in which we can get an agreement that will command a majority across the House of Commons."

Mrs May will make a Commons statement on the extension today as cross-party talks between Labour and the Government continue in a bid to break the parliamentary deadlock.


The six-month delay comes after French President Emmanuel Macron objected to a year-long extension backed by the majority of other EU member states.

Speaking after the summit, Mr Macron said: "It's true that the majority was more in favour of a very long extension.

"But it was not logical in my view, and above all, it was neither good for us, nor for the UK."

He added: "I take responsibility for this position, I think it's for the collective good."

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