Donald Tusk says Brexit delay only 'possible' if MPs back Theresa May's deal

Posted On: 
20th March 2019

Theresa May will only be granted a Brexit delay by the European Union if the Commons votes to back her deal, Donald Tusk has said.

European Council president Donald Tusk
Credit: 
PA Images

In a move that heaps pressure on MPs to get behind the Prime Minister's agreement, the European Council chief said Mrs May's demand for a short extension to Article 50 was "possible" - but on the condition that the withdrawal agreement was finally backed at a third attempt.

He added that her demand for a 30 June deadline "had its merits", but said that the date "creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature".

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It comes after a European Commission document obtained by Reuters suggested Brussels would only consider postponing Brexit until 23 May - or a longer delay that would force the UK to take part in EU Parliament elections.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Tusk said: "I believe that a short extension would be possible, but it would be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.

"The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal of 30 June has its merits but creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature."

He added that leaders of the EU27 will discuss the proposal tomorrow when the EU Council convenes.

The Prime Minister suggested earlier that she was ready to stand down unless MPs backed her deal by the end of June. Her agreement was subjected to a 230-vote defeat at the first meaningful vote in January and a 149-vote loss on her second attempt last week.

Mr Tusk also confirmed that he did not expect an extraordinary European Council next week ahead of the currently scheduled 29 March exit date, if EU leaders and MPs approve his recommendations.

He concluded by saying: "If in the hope for final success may seem frail, even illusory and all the Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution of course without opening up the withdrawal agreement. 

"We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events and I am confident that also now we will not lack the same patience and goodwill at this most critical point in this process."