Brexit delay depends on which way Commons votes today, says EU’s Tusk

Donald Tusk indicates that extension would be granted to prevent a no-deal

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Tuesday 22 October 2019 10:16
Comments
EU says decision to grant Brexit extension depends on which way Commons votes today

Whether the EU will grant a further Brexit extension will depend on how MPs vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, the European Council president has said.

Speaking in the European Parliament, Donald Tusk said he was consulting leaders on how to proceed, but that all eyes were on Westminster.

It comes ahead of two crucial votes by MPs on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and programme motion on Tuesday evening – which could blow a hole in the government’s timetable.

“The situation is quite complex following events over the weekend in the UK and the British request for an extension of the Article 50 process,” Mr Tusk told MEPs.

“I am consulting the leaders on how to react and will decide in the coming days. It is obvious that the result of these consultations will very much depend on what the British parliament decides or doesn’t decide. We should be ready for every scenario.”

He hinted that an extension would be granted if needed to avoid a no-deal, adding: “One thing must be clear, as I said to prime minister Johnson on Saturday – a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.”

The ultimate decision over whether to extend will be down to EU leaders, who must unanimously agree to any further delay to the Article 50 process.

Speaking alongside Mr Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, complained: “In truth it has pained me to spend so much of this mandate dealing with Brexit when I have thought of nothing less than how this union could do better for its citizens. A waste of time and a waste of energy.”

He added: “We need now to watch events in Westminster closely. But it’s not possible or imaginable that this [European] parliament would ratify this agreement before Westminster – first London, then Brussels and Strasbourg.”

In the same debate, which took place on Thursday morning in Strasbourg, MEPs from across the political spectrum expressed similar sentiments.

“We are still in the hands of London, we are waiting for London,” said Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right EPP, the largest group in the parliament. ”For us as the European Parliament I would say we have the same right to do a proper assessment of text that is on our table. There is no need to rush, there is no need to hurry up, we have the same rights to discuss it ... that’s why I see no chance that this week we will have any kind of decision.”

One thing must be clear, as I said to prime minister Johnson on Saturday – a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision

Donald Tusk, European Council president

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said the time remaining had to be used to iron out concerns about citizens’ rights in the final deal.

Meanwhile Philippe Lamberts, the co-leader of the Green group, said the situation gave him a “sense of deja vu” and called for a confirmatory referendum to be take place in the UK.

“We are back at the same place with a variant of [Theresa May’s] agreement, now everything is in the hands of the House of Commons or the House of Lords,” he said.

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“If you are unable or unwilling to do it, dear colleagues of the British parliament – then you must have to guts to put either this agreement of the agreement concluded between Theresa May and the EU, to the popular vote.

“That actually, this is the only certain way get to a decision because we know that either way we will get a British choice.”

The final steps for formal ratification of the deal by the European Council have been “finalised”, according to the body’s president Donald Tusk. At the start of the week the European Parliament decided to shelve a planned vote to ratify the deal on Thursday, citing delays to the process in Westminster.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Tusk added: "After what I have heard in this chamber today, I have no doubt that we should treat the British request for extension in all seriousness."

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