EU ambassadors have agreed on the principle of granting Britain’s request for another extension to the Brexit deadline but have yet to decide on the length of the new delay.
Speaking Friday after EU ambassadors met with the EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said ambassadors “have agreed to the principle of an extension” and their work will “continue in the coming days.”
Britain is scheduled to leave the 28-nation bloc on October 31 but has asked for a three-month extension to that deadline.
A European diplomat, speaking anonymously because discussions are ongoing, said EU ambassadors will meet again on Monday to discuss the length of the Brexit extension.
European Union ambassadors are meeting in Brussels to discuss what kind of extension to the Brexit deadline they could propose to Britain.
There is a large consensus among the 27 ambassadors to delay Britain’s scheduled October 31 departure from the bloc after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sealed a new deal with the EU, but they have yet to agree on the length of the extension.
It remains unclear whether an announcement will be made before next week.
Politicians in Britain have been looking to the EU to break the Brexit deadlock after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an early election as his plans to deliver a deal stalled.
Earlier, the French government said Britain must present “a clear scenario” for progress before another delay was granted.
“Our position is that simply giving more time, without political change, without ratification, without an election, would be useless,” Amelie de Montchalin, France’s European Affairs minister, told RTL radio on Thursday night.
Those comments follow Johnson’s decision Thursday to push for early elections to break the stalemate in Parliament that has blocked a Brexit deal.
Johnson said he would ask lawmakers to vote Monday on a motion calling a national poll on December 12.
To call an election Johnson, who leads a minority government, must win support from two-thirds of the House of Commons. But opposition parties say they won’t vote for early elections until the government secures an extension of the Brexit deadline.
Britain’s biggest opposition party has gone a step further, saying it will block plans for an early election unless Johnson eliminates the possibility of leaving the EU without an agreement.
Diane Abbott, the Labour Party’s spokeswoman on domestic affairs, told the BBC her party wants an “explicit commitment” that there won’t be a no-deal Brexit, “because we don’t trust Boris Johnson.”
“We want to know that by some mischance we won’t crash out of the EU without a deal, because we’ve said for some time that coming out of the EU without a deal would be absolutely disastrous,” she said.
Until recently Johnson promised that Britain would leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal, saying this was the only way to put pressure on European officials to make concessions on a withdrawal deal.
Johnson last week secured a new deal with EU leaders, but British lawmakers refused to approve it before an October 19 deadline imposed by Parliament.
That forced him to ask the EU to extend the Brexit deadline to the end of January.
Sajid Javid, Britain’s treasury chief, said he believes the EU will ultimately approve a three-month extension.
British voters decided to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum. Parliament rejected former Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal three times, forcing her to step down in July.
Johnson renegotiated that deal, but lawmakers on Saturday rejected his plans to fast-track the approval process and ensure Britain’s departure on October 31.
Javid said the only way to break the logjam is to call new elections and get rid of the current “zombie Parliament.”
“Three-and-a-half years ago this decision was made and there’s been delay after delay after delay,” he told the BBC. “And we have to end this, end this uncertainty.”
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