Theresa May writes to EU to ‘beg’ for Brexit delay
Downing Street admits Britain is in ‘crisis’ amid Cabinet division
Theresa May is writing to the EU officially to request for Brexit to be postponed as Downing Street admits the situation has become a “crisis”.
With just nine days until Britain is expected to leave the EU, the prime minister will today send a letter to Brussels asking for an extension of Article 50. She will then travel to the Belgian capital tomorrow for a summit with EU leaders.
The Guardian says May has been “forced” to “beg” Brussels for a delay, while The Times says she has “little to offer” the 27 other EU countries. According to the Daily Mail, “chaos still reigns 1,000 days after Britain voted to leave”.
May faces a number of challenges. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said they would not grant a delay without a “concrete plan” from the UK about what they would do with it.
He said for a long delay “there needs to be a new event” or a “new political process” - so that “we are not back in the same situation as today”.
Closer to home, the Daily Telegraph says May’s Cabinet is “fracturing” over her plans for a delay after ministers told her she was risking “the end of the Conservative Party”.
Some ministers suspect she will ask for a two-year delay, and Bloomberg reports that pro-Brexit ministers met last night to plan how they could block such a delay. They fear it could put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street and turn Britain into a “barren land” with “gulags”.
However, a cabinet source has told the BBC that May plans to ask the EU to agree to postpone the UK's departure until 30 June, with an option of a longer delay. May would then leverage the threat of a longer postponement to make a third bid to get her deal through the Commons.
She is seeking a delay after the Commons rejected her withdrawal deal for a second time last week by 149 votes. MPs also ruled out leaving the EU without a deal, and voted in favour of extending the Brexit process.
May’s hopes for a third attempt at getting MPs to back the deal this week were dashed when Speaker John Bercow intervened on Monday. He said he would not allow a third “meaningful vote” in the coming days on “substantially the same” motion MPs rejected last week.
Any delay will have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states. The UK leaves the European Union on 29 March with or without a deal, unless a delay is agreed.