(from Brussels) The final document on Brexit arrived shortly before midnight. But the die had been cast in the late afternoon. The European Council gathered in Brussels on Thursday March 21 to discuss the final deadline and the details of the UK withdrawal from the EU, has agreed to postpone exit date to May 22 (the British government had asked an extension to June 20), one day before the European Parliament elections begin. But the extension is granted on the condition that the House of Commons approves the withdrawal agreement drawn up by May’s government with the EU past November.
However, if the deal is not approved, EU27 leaders – united more than ever in the face of a disunited Kingdom – have agreed that the British Government has until April 12 to state whether it intends to participate in the European Parliament election of May 23-26 – and thus remain in the EU, amounting to a Brexit backtrack– or if intends to leave the EU with or without a deal.
To avert misunderstandings, the EU Summit “Conclusions” reiterate that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened.
In the meantime the EU is prepared to face “all possible scenarios”: namely, that the UK will exit the European home with an “orderly withdrawal” on May 22, that it will remain, or that it may leave with no deal.
The debate lasted several hours, with reference to the press conference planned before dinner, and at the end of the day the European Council dismissed the Brexit issue with a few written paragraphs. Now the ball is back in Britain’s court. Theresa May has just a few days to reunite the ranks of Conservative MPs and to curry favour with Labour. No substantial disagreement emerged among EU27 leaders: “we respect the free choice of British citizens, but Europe moves forward”: is the message to nationalists on the opposite side of the Channel – and to possible further nationalists in Europe who should intend to bring their Country outside the borders of the European Union.