EU should accept UK’s request for extension – European Council President

European Council, President Donald Tusk attends a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool

The European Union should ‘accept the UK’s request for an extension’ over Brexit, the President of the European Council has said. Donald Tusk tweeted on Tuesday evening:

‘Following PM Boris Johnson’s decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension. ‘For this I will propose a written procedure.’

Earlier Tusk said he was ‘consulting EU leaders on how to respond’ to Mr Johnson’s reluctant request for an extension, adding that ‘a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.’ He did not say how long an extension should be, but the Government previously requested they be given three month extra months.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in parliament made ratification of his deal by the Oct. 31 deadline almost impossible.

As the clock ticks down to the deadline for Britain’s departure, Brexit is hanging in the balance as a divided parliament debates when, how and even whether it should happen.

In another day of Brexit drama in the 800-year-old Westminster parliament, lawmakers handed Johnson the first major parliamentary victory of his premiership by signalling their support for his deal in an early legislative hurdle.

But that was overshadowed just minutes later when parliament defeated him on his timetable to rush the legislation through the House of Commons in just three days.

Lawmakers voted 329 to 299 in favour of the second reading of the legislation for the deal – still no guarantee of success since the bill could be amended by lawmakers who want changes.

They then voted 322 to 308 against Johnson’s extremely tight timetable, which the government has repeatedly said is necessary to reach Johnson’s target of leaving on Oct. 31.

“I must express my disappointment that the House has yet again voted for delay,” Johnson told parliament.

The next step, he said, would be waiting for the EU to respond to a request to delay the Oct. 31 Brexit date, which Johnson reluctantly sent to Brussels on Saturday after being forced to do so by lawmakers.

“The EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay,” he said. “The government must take the only responsible course and accelerate our preparations for a no-deal outcome.”

Johnson was forced by opponents into the humiliation of asking the EU for the delay after vowing he would never seek one, but had still hoped to make the request unnecessary by passing the Brexit law fast enough to leave on time.

“I will speak to EU member states about their intentions, until they have reached a decision we will pause this legislation,” Johnson said. “Let me be clear, our policy remains that we should not delay.”

The pound fell 0.6% to $1.2881, off the 5-1/2 month highs hit earlier in the session on optimism about the deal.