EU leaders wanted a concrete Brexit plan — instead, they find themselves contemplating a leap of faith.
When they granted Theresa May’s first request for an extension three weeks ago, her counterparts in the European Council refused the U.K. prime minister’s proposed date of June 30. Instead they offered her two shorter deadlines. She has failed to meet the conditions for either.
Despite widespread frustration in Brussels and national capitals that Brexit continues to drag on, EU leaders look set to grant May’s request for more time — though they will do so on their timetable and terms, if at all. In truth, they have little choice.
A draft of the conclusions that leaders will sign off on Wednesday evening, seen by POLITICO, states that the European Council “agrees to an extension to allow for ratification” of the Brexit deal but leaves the ultimate end date blank, to be decided later.
They are having to take much more from May on trust than they had hoped. After the British PM failed to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons for a third time two weeks ago, the EU’s terms were that she would have to come up with an alternative plan before the special April 10 summit. If she didn’t, the U.K. would face ejection from the bloc without a deal on Friday April 12.
In his invitation letter to EU leaders ahead of the summit, Tusk shredded May’s request for a short extension.
May bowed to the inevitable last week and began formal talks with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team to find a compromise deal that can command a majority in the Commons.