PM faces begging the EU for an expensive Brexit delay

PM faces begging the EU for an expensive Brexit delay

So what happens NOW? If No Deal is voted down May will be forced to BEG the EU for an expensive Brexit delay after MPs tie her hands

  • MPs are likely to vote for a delay to Brexit in the House of Commons tomorrow 
  • Mrs May would then have to ask for an extension to Article 50 from the EU
  • But Brussels is divided over how long an extension should be granted 
  • And even a short extension could end up costing the UK billions of pounds 

MPs look set to force Theresa May to go cap in hand to the EU and ask for delay to Brexit.

With Parliament almost certain to demand Article 50 be postponed when it comes to a vote on Thursday, the question facing the Prime Minister and European politicians is how long that extension to our membership should be.

Her begging mission is due to start place on March 21 and 22 in Brussels, when she takes part in what is currently due to be Britain’s final European Council meeting as a member of the EU.

If Westminster is utterly divided over Brexit, the length extension is where there is division in Brussels.

Theresa May (pictured leaving 10 Downing Street today) looks set to have to go cap in hand to the EU when the European Council meets in Brussels on March 21 and seek a Brexit delay following a vote by MPs on Thursday that will likely sanction such a move

Michel Barnier is among senior EU figures who have warned that Britain will only get an extension if it has a clear idea of what it would be used for

The EU has said it will grant a two month extension to get the current deal through but that this should not extend beyond EU Parliament elections at the end of May.

It might also extend a much longer extension to allow for a general election or second referendum – but this would be for many months or even years. Martin Selmayr, the divisive deputy of Jean-Claude Juncker is said to favour this extension.

But others are said to favour a shorter extension because of the European Parliament elections on May 23. The UK remaining in the EU at that point would create a constitutional headache – would we field candidates?

‘Make up your minds in London’ is the EU’s demand before an extension

Theresa May is said to favour a three-month grace period – which by happy coincidence would allow her to surpass Gordon Brown’s tenure as Prime Minister.

What it currently is ruling out is giving Britain an extension without some clear indication of what it might achieve.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg today it was now ‘the responsibility of the UK’ to suggest a way forward.

Another massive rebellion and implacable opposition from Labour and the DUP sunk the deal

‘They have to tell us what it is they want for their future relationship,’ he said.

‘What will their choice be, what will be the line they will take? That is the question we need a clear answer to now. That is the question that has to be answered before a decision on a possible further extension.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s divisive Brexit co-ordinator added that the UK must put ‘queen and country’ before party politics.

‘That is what we need and so I am against every extension, whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours, if it’s not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something,’ he said.

‘That we know what they want.

‘Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue. Not for us, not for Britain and certainly not for our citizens.’

He also warned that the UK remaining in the EU after May 23 meant the elections could be ‘hijacked by Brexiteers’

Can the meaningful vote be resurrected a third time? 

So Theresa May will need something concrete to take to Brussels. But what?

Her Brexit plan might have been rejected by a bruising 149 votes last night (following the record-setting 230-vote defeat in January) but Theresa May still appears to believe that there is life in her withdrawal agreement.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal may seem to be as dead as Monty Python’s Dead Parrot (above) but she reportedly may seek to try to get it past MPs again before the month is out

To the rest of the world it may seem like Monty Python’s Dead Parrot but there are suggestions she might make a third attempt to force it through the Commons.

This could be done as early as next week, to allow her to go to the European Council with a better result than she achieved yesterday – if not a victory then a narrow defeat.

But more likely is that what is being dubbed MV3 will take place after the European Council.

‘Back me or get no Brexit or a Brexit you don’t like’

Opinion polls show that the British public will stomach a short delay to Brexit, but support drops away markedly the longer the extension is. The same is true of many MPs.

The thinking is that Mrs May will go to Brussels and be told that we will have to stomach a longer extension than she or anyone else.

There is also the cost of remaining in the EU – we will have to make financial contributions every day we remain a member.

Brussels will demand another £13.5billion in Brexit divorce payments if Theresa May seeks an extension to Article 50, it has been claimed.

EU states are said to be ‘hardening’ their stance against a longer Brexit process and could force Britain to stay in a customs union as the price of agreeing a delay.

Delaying a third meaningful vote until after the EU Council, when we should know what the EU will offer, means she will be able to confront hardline Brexiteers and say ‘back me or face a long delay, followed possibly by no Brexit at all or a Brexit you will not like’.

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