In Brief

Brexit delayed as EU sets UK two new deadlines

Brussels gives Theresa May until 22 May if MPs back her withdrawal plan

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Theresa May returns to the UK today after the European Union agreed to postpone Brexit beyond 29 March.

Following eight hours of talks in Brussels, EU leaders offered to delay Brexit until 22 May if MPs approve May's withdrawal deal next week. If they do not, the UK will have until 12 April to set out its next steps or leave without a deal.

According to The Guardian, the PM failed in Brussels, “leaving EU leaders to take matters into their own hands”. The Times says the possibility of a longer extension is “a victory for Germany, the Netherlands and [Donald] Tusk”, while the Daily Telegraph said the outcome saw “EU leaders turn the screw” on the beleaguered prime minister.

In a news conference, European Council President Donald Tusk explained that the UK government “will still have a chance of a deal, no deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50” until 12 April.

A longer extension is only possible if the UK agrees to stand in the European elections, he added.

May will now resume her efforts to convince MPs to support her withdrawal deal. Despite Speaker John Bercow’s intervention, MPs are expected to vote for a third time on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week. May says she will be “working hard to build support for getting the deal through”.

After she came under fire for her statement on Wednesday evening criticising MPs, May struck a more conciliatory tone in a news conference in Brussels. “Last night I expressed my frustration and I know that MPs are frustrated too,” she said. “They have difficult jobs to do.

“I hope that we can all agree we are now at the moment of decision. And I will make every effort to ensure that we are able to leave with a deal and move our country forward.”

She dismissed suggestions to revoke Article 50, despite a petition calling for that passing more than two million signatures. 

Details have emerged of May’s meeting with EU leaders yesterday. The prime minister made a 90-minute presentation to her European counterparts, several of whom said they were “surprised” that May appeared to be “seriously contemplating a no-deal scenario”, according to a source quoted by the BBC.

One leader told the prime minister that the UK was a “sick patient” that “needed special care” given the precarious state of Parliament.

Commenting on the latest development, the BBC’s political correspondent Chris Mason pointed out that: “Postponing a series of dilemmas is not the same as resolving them.”

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