EU backs Brexit de­lay as John­son eyes elec­tion

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

BRUS­SELS (AFP) — Euro­pean Union mem­bers backed a plan to post­pone Brexit on Wed­nes­day but have yet to agree on how much longer to give Lon­don to re­solve its po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son is strug­gling to per­suade Bri­tish MPs to quickly rat­ify the di­vorce ac­cord he struck with EU lead­ers last week, and is push­ing for a snap elec­tion.

John­son spoke to Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk on Wed­nes­day and, ac­cord­ing to a Euro­pean source, he told him he does not want to de­lay Brexit be­yond Oct. 31.

But Tusk nev­er­the­less rec­om­mended to EU am­bas­sadors they ap­prove a prior Bri­tish re­quest for a de­lay un­til Jan. 31, which a re­luc­tant John­son was com­pelled to send last week un­der a law passed by rebel MPs.

The am­bas­sadors met Wed­nes­day and sev­eral of­fi­cial and diplo­matic sources told AFP they agreed on the prin­ci­ple of an ex­ten­sion — but not on its length — with France pub­licly in fa­vor a shorter de­lay.

“All agreed on the need for an ex­ten­sion to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The du­ra­tion of an ex­ten­sion is still be­ing dis­cussed,” a Euro­pean source told re­porters.

Some re­ports sug­gested France had wanted to limit the de­lay to just two weeks, in order to help John­son pres­sure the House of Com­mons to quickly ap­prove the with­drawal ar­range­ment.

But three sources told AFP that no al­ter­na­tive date was pro­posed in the meet­ing it­self. Ger­many and

Ire­land backed the “flex­i­ble” Jan­uary 31 dead­line, which could be cut short is a deal is rat­i­fied be­fore­hand.

“The mood in the room points to a longer ex­ten­sion,” one Euro­pean diplo­mat said.

An­other added: “The del­e­ga­tions in­sisted on the fact that they could not de­cide to­day and that they need more clar­ity on what is go­ing on in the United King­dom.” If the mem­ber states can not agree, then an emer­gency EU sum­mit could be called for Mon­day, but the EU of­fi­cial said the mem­bers had a “strong pref­er­ence” for mak­ing a writ­ten de­ci­sion this week.

The am­bas­sadors plan meet again on Fri­day.

“In the mean­time, Pres­i­dent Tusk’s con­sul­ta­tions will con­tinue,” a Euro­pean of­fi­cial said.

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