European Union leaders were wrangling on whether to rescue Britain from a precipitous and potentially calamitous Brexit , or to give a push over the edge to the foot-dragging nation that was leaving.
Prime Minister Theresa May pleaded with the 27 additional EU leaders in an emergency summit to delay Britain’s departure, due on Friday, until June 30 while the U.K. sorts out the mess which Brexit is now.
Some were shaky, but French President Emmanuel Macron struck a warning note.
“What is crucial is that nothing must undermine the European project in the months to come,” he said.
At a meeting in Brussels, May made the situation for the delay. She believes that a June 30 deadline is time to get Britain’s Parliament pass the legislation needed for a Brexit and to ratify a Brexit deal.
But lawmakers have rejected her divorce bargain three times, and attempts to forge a compromise with her political competitors have yet to bear fruit.
May spoke to this 27 EU leaders before they met for dinner to pick Britain’s destiny. Compared to some summits that are testy, there have been indications of heat and even humor. German and may Chancellor Angela Merkel were filmed laughing above a tablet bearing a picture showing the two on Wednesday wearing similar coats of them talking to their Parliaments.
Leaders stated that after hearing May speak, although Macron nevertheless had reservations, they were inclined to give a Brexit delay. An official in the French president’s office said the British leader had not offered”sufficient guarantees” to justify a long extension.
Macron is concerned that allowing Britain remain long would distract the EU from other issues — notably month’s European Parliament elections.
“The no-deal situation is a real option,” said the officer, that was not licensed to be openly named based on presidential coverage. “Placing in danger the functioning of Europe is not preferable to your no-deal.”
Others suggested a delay will be needed, given the thickness of Britain disarray.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stated he hoped for”a smart extension.”
“If it is a longer extension there is no lunch for free, thus we will need to know just why,” he said.
May indicated a more extension would be accepted by her, so long as it contained a trigger should its Brexit impasse is ended by Britain.
“What is important is that any expansion enables us to depart at the point where we ratify the withdrawal arrangement,” May said as she arrived in Brussels.
She added she had been optimistic it would be as soon as May 22 — a vital date because that would prevent the need for Britain to participate in elections for the European Parliament.
A few weeks have passed since May and a bargain struck setting out the terms of the departure of Britain and the outline of future connections. All that was required was ratification by the European and British Parliaments.
However, U.K. lawmakers refused it — three times. Since Britain’s departure date of March 29 approached with no settlement in sight, the EU gave Britain before Friday to accept a withdrawal program, alter course and find a further delay to Brexit, or even crash out of the EU with no deal to cushion the shock.
Britain will depart the bloc Friday unless it cancels Brexit Wednesday, if no expansion materializes.
Business leaders and economists warn together with tariffs and customs tests causing gridlock at ports and shortages of goods that a Brexit would lead to disruptions in trade and travel.
A disorderly Brexit would harm Britain, in addition to EU states, and most importantly need to avoid it.
“I do not anticipate that the U.K. will abandon the Friday,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said. “I am very confident that there will be an expansion agreed today. What’s open is just how long the extension will be and what the conditions will be.”
Several leaders said they’d need assurances of behaviour in exchange for another delay.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the EU leaders’ decision will hinge on”what her strategy is now to find that withdrawal arrangement through Parliament, and how we could get guarantees that in the meantime that the United Kingdom will remain as a loyal partner.”
The government insists it will not be obstructive, since it needs to keep close ties into the bloc. But politicians have said Britain ought to be tumultuous. Conservative lawmaker Mark Francois reported that if the U.K. stayed in the bloc,”then in return we will develop into a Trojan Horse within the EU.”
May’s future is uncertain, regardless of the EU decides.
She has said that”as prime minister” that she could not consent to allow Britain stay in the EU past June 30, and she has also promised to resign after Brexit is delivered. Many Party lawmakers would like her to stop and let a new president take charge of the next stage of Brexit. After she endured a no-confidence vote in December However they can not force out her before the conclusion of the year.
Each British initiative to have a bargain has floundered so far. Several days of discussions between May’s Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party have failed to create a breakthrough. Labour favors a Brexit that is milder compared to the government has proposed, and would like to retain a close financial relationship with the bloc. The two sides said Thursday, they would resume their talks.
Ireland’s Varadkar, whose country shares a boundary with all the U.K. and could be among the hardest hit by a no-deal Brexit, said Britain was “a tough position.”
“It doesn’t want to leave with no deal; in the present time it doesn’t want to vote for your deal. And obviously a great deal of people, maybe half of the population, do not want to leave in any way,” he explained.
Associated Press writers Mike Corder and Angela Charlton at Sylvie Corbet at Paris, Danica Kirka in London and also Brussels contributed to this document.