BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that he would recommend that the 27 other member states of the European Union approve a delay of Britain’s departure date following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to put the Brexit deal on hold.
“Following PM @BorisJohnson’s decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no-deal #Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension. For this I will propose a written procedure,” Tusk said in a tweet.
Johnson said on Tuesday it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in parliament made ratification of his deal by the Oct. 31 deadline almost impossible.
The European Commission said it took note of the vote in British parliament.
“The European Commission takes note of tonight’s result and expects the U.K. government to inform us about the next steps,” a spokeswoman for the European Union’s executive, Mina Andreeva, said on Twitter.
She said Tusk was consulting EU leaders on the request for an extension until January 31, 2020. EU officials said the 27 may offer a short extension of one month or less to give Britain just enough time to get the legislation passed in parliament.
One senior EU official said the 27 countries would “certainly not” react immediately.
“Leaders (of the 27) will be reluctant to be drawn into UK politics and election-date setting,” said another EU official.
“We stay calm,” another senior EU diplomat said.
The European Parliament must also approve the deal struck at an EU summit last week, but European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the assembly in Strasbourg earlier on Tuesday that it could only do so once it has been approved by the British parliament.
While weary of the tortuous process, EU leaders are keen to avoid a disorderly no-deal Brexit and are unlikely to reject the request for a delay.
The EU 27 have already agreed twice to postpone Brexit from the original deadline of March 29 this year. However, frustration has mounted over the distraction of a process that has dragged on for 3-1/2 years since Britons voted out.
The bloc had said the second extension would be the last one. French President Emmanuel Macron has been the most outspoken and impatient among the 27’s leaders on the issue.
A French diplomatic source said on Tuesday France is ready to grant an additional few days in order to facilitate the vote but rules out any extension beyond that.
“We’ll see at the end of the week whether a purely technical extension of a few days is necessary to complete this parliamentary procedure,” the source said.
Another option is a so-called ‘flextension’ whereby the EU would leave the door open beyond Oct. 31, but without giving a specific deadline.
Reporting by John Chalmers and Jan Strupcewsi; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
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