Emmanuel Macron (pictured today) believes it is ‘premature’ to assume they will grant Britain another extension to the Brexit negotiation period
Emmanuel Macron is leading European efforts to stop Britain from getting any new delay to Brexit without a ‘clear and credible’ plan for leaving, saying we should otherwise be left to quit ‘in a disorderly manner’.
Paris today attacked both Theresa May’s plea to postpone leaving until June 30 and a separate plan from European Council president Donald Tusk to keep us in the trade bloc for a year.
A French diplomatic source said Mr Tusk’s idea for a ‘flextension’ until March 29 2020 was ‘a clumsy trial balloon’ ahead of an emergency summit next Wednesday.
And European affairs minister Amélie de Montchalin warned that Theresa May’s desire for a short extension of Article 50 with a break mechanism to leave sooner if a Withdrawal Agreement passed through Parliament was not likely to succeed.
“The European council took a clear decision on 21 March … Another extension requires the UK to put forward a plan with clear and credible political backing,’
‘The council would then define the necessary conditions attached to that extension, she said.
“In the absence of such a plan, we would have to acknowledge that the UK chose to leave the EU in a disorderly manner.”
The French intransigence came as senior Dutch and German politicians also questioned Mrs may’s request for a delay to June – after a similar request was rejected out at the last summit in March and two shorter ones imposed.
Dutch premier Mark Rutte said May’s letter seeking the extension “raises many questions” and there will have to be “intense discussions” ahead of a crucial summit of European leaders next Wednesday that will decide on the issue.
“The plan was that the British would explain what they wanted from the EU,” Rutte told a weekly press conference.
“A letter was sent today which, as far as I am concerned, doesn’t answer this request (from the EU for more information). I hope it will be possible to give the answers to these questions.”
Rutte – who has been one of the most outspoken EU leaders on Brexit as his country faces the risk of an economic shock if Britain leaves without a deal – said the letter had “no full plan, there was only part of a plan.”
“We hope London will provide more clarity before Wednesday,”
German foreign minister Heiki Mass added that “many questions” remained about Mrs May’s plan.
Theresa May will write to EU Council President Donald Tusk to request an extension to Article 50 that will delay the UK’s departure beyond April 12 – but Mr Tusk will insist in it being a year-long delay into 2020
Meanwhile former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt took a swipe at Jacob Rees-Mogg after the Tory Brexiteer hit out at plans for even closer EU integration.
Mr Rees-Mogg had tweeted suggesting that if the UK was forced to accept a long Brexit delay we should ‘be as difficult as possible’ and ‘veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes’.
In response, Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said: ‘For those in the EU who may be tempted to further extend the Brexit saga, I can only say, be careful what you wish for.’
Mr Verhofstadt lashed out at Jacob Rees-Mogg after the Tory Brexiteer suggested the UK could use a longer Brexit delay to be ‘ as difficult as possible’ inside the bloc
The Prime Minister said she will seek to secure ratification and departure before the European Parliament elections on May 23, but will make ‘responsible preparations’ for the UK to take part in the polls if that does not prove possible.
The request will be considered at an emergency EU summit on April 10, where it requires the unanimous agreement of the leaders of the remaining 27 member states.
But Mr Tusk is recommending a longer postponement of one year, with a break clause in the case of earlier ratification, in a so-called ‘flextension’ deal.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said today that Britain’s request needed to be clarified before or at next week’s summit.
‘Theresa May’s letter raises many questions, which need to be discussed’, Mr Rutte told reporters in the Netherlands.
‘We hope for more clarity from London before next Wednesday.’
Mrs May has already obtained one extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process, postponing the date of Brexit from March 29 to April 12 – next Friday.
She was forced to seek a second delay after her deal was rejected for a third time by MPs last week.
In her letter, she wrote: ‘The Government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible.’
Mrs May said if ongoing talks with Labour do not lead to a ‘single unified approach soon’ then the Government would instead look to establish a ‘consensus’ on options on a future relationship that could be put to the Commons.
She wrote: ‘The Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House, if the Opposition will commit to doing the same.’
Prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested the UK should retaliate to any long extension by using its continued membership to block moves towards closer EU integration.
‘If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible,’ he tweeted.
‘We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block (French President Emmanuel) Macron’s integrationist schemes.’
Talks aimed at finding a way out of the Brexit deadlock are continuing between the Government and Labour negotiating teams on Friday.