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EU offers UK Brexit extension options

March 21, 2019

Britain will have to decide if it wants to take the deal, request a longer extension, or crash out of the bloc. One option could see the UK participating in the European elections.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, center, speaks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, left, during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, March 21
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Augstein

The European Council on Thursday offered the UK two different Brexit extension options.

The UK has been seeking an extension for the Article 50 exit process to allow for an orderly exit.

Read more: Angela Merkel to UK: EU's 'door is wide open' despite Brexit

The offer:

  • Option 1: If the UK parliament votes for the withdrawal agreement next week, it can delay exiting until May 22 to ratify the text.
  • Option 2: If it does not approve the deal, the EU will offer a shorter extension until April 12.
  • If it rejects the deal and takes the shorter extension, it can then decide whether to seek a much longer delay and vote in the European elections or leave on April 12 without a deal.

Read more: Pro-Brexit MP: Leave EU with May's deal or risk remaining

Infografik Brexit next steps EN

April 12 the 'key date'

European Council President Donald Tusk said: "The UK government will still have a choice of a deal, a no deal, a long extension, or revoking article 50. The 12th of April is the key date in terms of the UK deciding whether to hold European Parliamentary elections. If it has not decided to do so by then, the option of a long extension will automatically become impossible."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the remaining 27 member states had backed up his legal offers to the UK on the Irish backstop,  also known as the Strasbourg Agreement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had accepted the EU's offer and welcomed the confirmation of the Strasbourg Agreement. She called on British MPs to accept the deal, saying it would be wrong to participate in the European elections.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the compromise after an "intensive, but successful evening."

What are the chances of a no-deal Brexit?

Luxemburg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he gave the British Parliament a 51 to 49 chance of passing the deal. He said the best outcome would be for the UK to hold a second referendum and vote to stay in the bloc.

French President Emmanuel Macron told EU leaders that he now thought there was only a five percent chance of the deal passing, according to Reuters. He had given the deal a 10 percent chance before he spoke to May.

Tusk reportedly replied that Macron's five-percent estimate was "very optimistic."

Critical extension: The new offer will grant May critically needed time to push her twice-rejected deal through parliament and avoid a hard Brexit. The offer could also keep alive the remainers' dreams of staying in the EU as well help scare Brexiteers into accepting the deal to avoid such a scenario.

amp,aw/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

Will Northern Ireland’s Troubles return?