UK to ask for Article 50 extension, work with opposition to take Brexit forward


The UK government is to ask for an extension to Article 50 to find a way out of the Brexit impasse. Prime Minister Theresa May said she would work with the opposition to agree a plan to take the Brexit process forward.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Tuesday that she wanted an extension to the process of the UK leaving the EU. However, she also said she did not want the UK to take part in European elections.

May said the extension would be “as short as possible” and would end once a deal was struck.

Speaking in Downing Street, after a seven-hour meeting with her ministers, May said she would take action to break the logjam and work with the opposition to agree a plan which could then be approved by Parliament before being taken to the EU next week.

Corbyn ‘happy’ to work with May

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “very happy” to work with May. He said it was important to avoid a ‘no-deal’ scenario and repeated his call for a customs union.

May said she was seeking a single, unified approach.

She said the government would abide by a decision of Parliament on the path for Brexit. A series of indicative votes on Brexit in the House of Commons have focused on a customs union and public vote but none have so far been passed. The next debate is on Wednesday with further votes scheduled for Monday.

Pro-EU Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed concern: “If MPs allow 12 April to pass with no commitment to fight Euro elections, May 22 becomes the inescapable exit day … and PM would then be able to say it’s my deal or no deal. Parliament needs to be very wary about a potential trap.”

EU frustration

The foreign ministers of France and Germany said they lamented the chaotic state of British politics over Brexit.

“Honestly, it’s sometimes difficult to follow,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “Three years after their decision, it would be great if they had a clear position. Otherwise the hard Brexit will have to take place in the coming days,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was unclear whether May’s new approach would succeed.

“In the end, we will have to wait to see what London decides of course. We are five minutes past midnight and this should be known in London as well,” he said.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “Even if, after today, we don’t know what the end result will be, let us be patient.”

Conservative support?

The prime minister did not say if she had the agreement of her ministers for her plan. Environment Minister and possible candidate for May’s job when she resigns, Michael Gove, said ministers did not have a vote.

Suggestions are that the plan could lead to a “softer Brexit,” which would likely cause the resignation of Brexit hardliners in the Cabinet.

There was no reference to any further public vote on the issue.

If no plan is presented to the EU by April 12, the default position is for the UK to leave the bloc without a deal.

jm/js (Reuters, AP)



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