An aerial view shows Brexit accountability campaign group Led By Donkeys unfurling a large crowd banner, as a spoof of the government's advertising campaign, at Parliament Square, London, on Saturday. Photo: Led By Donkeys/Handout via REUTERS
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EU plays for time as Johnson spars with UK parliament on Brexit

16 Comments
By Gabriela Baczynska and John Chalmers

The European Union will play for time rather than rush to decide on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's reluctant request to delay Brexit again, diplomats with the bloc said after a 15-minute meeting on Sunday.

Johnson's plan to put his Brexit withdrawal deal to the UK parliament on Saturday was derailed after lawmakers voted to withhold a decision on the deal, a move that forced him to seek a third postponement of Britain's departure from the bloc. Britain's exit had been envisaged for Oct 31.

From the EU's point of view, extension options range from just an additional month until the end of November to half a year or longer.

At a rare Sunday meeting of ambassadors of the 27 states that will make up the EU after Brexit, the diplomats decided to forward Johnson's deal to the European Parliament for its required approval.

"We're looking for more clarity towards the end of the week, hoping that by that time we will also see how things develop in London," one senior EU diplomat said.

Another one added the meeting was very brief: "No questions, no discussion. We are waiting."

The chairman of European Union leaders, Donald Tusk, said on Saturday he had received the extension request and he would now take "a few days" to consult EU capitals.

Prime Minister Antti Rinne of Finland, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said on Sunday that it would be"sensible" to agree to a third delay.

While weary of the tortuous Brexit process, EU leaders are keen to avoid a disorderly no-deal Brexit and are unlikely to reject the request. They hope the deal can eventually be approved in London. Johnson is now expected to put his exit deal to the UK parliament in the next few days.

"The political ball is in Westminster," said a third senior EU diplomat. "Let's see how things pan out over the next few days."

If developments in the UK parliament start to make a no-deal Brexit at the end of the month look unavoidable, the EU would be likely to step in, diplomats said. EU leaders might end up agreeing any new Brexit date at an emergency summit around next weekend.

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 has 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.

"We should stop believing that it's in everybody's interest to put everything on hold for six months and everything will be better after that," French Minister for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin told French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

"Political uncertainty has negative consequences for millions of families and businesses," she added in a tweet.

However, the EU 27 might grant a shorter lag of just a month to keep pressure on Britain to approve Johnson's withdrawal deal with the EU.

"A good and orderly solution is still possible if Boris Johnson now reaches out to parliament to seek a non-partisan solution," the tabloid BILD cited German economy minister Peter Altmaier as saying on Sunday. "If a delay of a few weeks is necessary I wouldn't have a problem with it," he said.

Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German lower house's foreign affairs committee, floated a much longer delay.

"(The EU) should now grant a final long one, giving the UK time to sort itself out and to prepare for all possible resolutions including a second referendum. Meanwhile the EU could deal with other pressing issues," he wrote in a tweet.

A likely deadline for the EU is shaping up around its next long-term budget from 2021.

Spain's EU minister deplored the protracted Brexit chaos and recalled a frustrating sense of deja vu for the EU, which had sealed a Brexit deal in 2018 with Britain's then-premier Theresa May only to then see it voted down thrice in the UK parliament.

"We hope that, as soon as possible, (the UK) will make a definitive decision on its future, be it within the European Union or outside of it," Marco Aguiriano wrote in the El Mundo daily on Sunday.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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I agree with the "Led by Donkeys" part.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Johnson & co have tortured the EU brokers for the last 3 years. Now the latter can see the end of the tunnel all they need to do is sit back with their popcorn as the Tory production of the UK Punch and Judy Show puts on its final performance.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I thought England already voted on this...

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

Boris' plan will not pass.

If the referendum and aftermath have taught us anything, it's that actually stating what a Brexit entails dooms it to electoral failure. It has to be gussied up with lots of cake and unicorns or it's going nowhere, despite the fact that the cake and unicorns will dissolve upon actual contact with reality.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

UK parliament

On a par with the U.S. Congress - what a clown show.

Boris' plan will not pass.

Let's hope Farage's plan will after the next general election.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

@serranoOn a par with the U.S. Congress - what a clown show.

A message consistently repeated by global alt right followers pushing to undermine the US and the remaining bits of other democracies in order to establish authoritarian rule ala their idol Putin, and others despots like Erdogan, MbS, Xi, Kim, Duterte, etal

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Bozo has crapped his pants in public. He needs to resign and go off into a corner. He is finished.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Since the politicians can't sort it out,maybe they need to go back and put it to the people again.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Boris' plan will not pass.

Let's hope Farage's plan will after the next general election.

Farage doesn't have a plan, apart from 'create mayhem and line Nigel's pockets at the same time'. So far things seem to be going to plan for him.

Farage and Boris walk into a pub, order two pints.

The barman pours out two perfect pints, brings them over to where the pair are sitting then proceeds to pour the contents of the glasses over their heads.

The pair jump up spluttering, outraged and phuahhing.

'Enjoy your beers, gents,' says the barman. 'You ordered two pints, you didn't specify how you wanted them delivered.'

I thought England already voted on this...

England and Wales were the only bits of the UK that voted leave. Northern Ireland, Scotland and London all voted to remain.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

it is coming... ,the fake referendum!

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

it is coming... ,the fake referendum!

No more game than the previous one. At least this time the public is slightly better informed and also realise that "leave" means radically different things to different people

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Johnson's plan to put his Brexit withdrawal deal to the UK parliament on Saturday was derailed after lawmakers voted to withhold a decision on the deal

It would be helpful to explore why there was a wish to withhold a decision. The amendment was brought by Oliver Letwin, who I believe has said he is willing to support Johnson's deal. I understand his concern was that by supporting the deal without any legislative plan, there was a chance that legislation would not pass and the UK would exit without a deal. Who was he was thinking would try to engineer a no-deal exit? Surely not those ERG tories. But Letwin has been around for a long time, and probably knows how the game works.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The will of the people thwarted again. Maybe in another three years the governing class and entrenched and entitled bureaucracy will heed democracy.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

England and Wales were the only bits of the UK that voted leave. Northern Ireland, Scotland and London all voted to remain.

So if Northern Ireland and Wales voted to pay no national taxes... oh, forget it.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The will of the people thwarted again. 

The idea that there is a single "will" is plain nonsense. That's why we elect those politicians - to try and sort out the differences with compromises, lies, whatever.

So if Northern Ireland and Wales voted to pay no national taxes... oh, forget it.

Why forget it? If they're willing to face the consequences, why not let them pay no tax? (no roads, no schools, etc.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why forget it? If they're willing to face the consequences, why not let them pay no tax? (no roads, no schools, etc.)

Now that I consider it you make a good point. If Northern Ireland and Wales were allowed their independence I could see them being much more willing to pay taxes to benefit themselves. In the case of Brexit the majority of the people don’t believe the EU benefits them but in fact, is a net harm. If the people should be allowed to be free of external taxation should they not also be allowed to be free of external political control? You make an excellent point.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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