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‘Flextension’ and just tension in Brussels as UK requests another Brexit delay

It’s official: Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit. At least not on April 12.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May formally appealed to the EU Friday for yet another extension of the U.K.’s departure date, perhaps until June 30. Or maybe until May 22. Or maybe sooner.

The two-and-a-half page letter to Council President Donald Tusk sparked alarm in Brussels. Significant concerns remain that the continued uncertainty poses a threat to the integrity of the European Parliament election and that a half-in-half-out U.K. could adopt a policy of future non-cooperation that the EU would be unable to control. EU leaders still have not had an answer to the questions they asked when they delayed Brexit day last time: What exactly would such an extension be for, and how would it achieve a different outcome?

May’s meandering missive was more of an expression of frustration than an exposition of a plan. It included a rehash of her recent lament over the failure to find a consensus in London — “This impasse cannot be allowed to continue” — as if Tusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker or any of the other 440 million people in the rest of the EU were at fault for the impasse in Westminster.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker | Thomas Niedermuller/Getty Images

And there was an update on the status of her negotiations with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — “we agreed follow-up discussions that are now taking place” — as if an agreement to more discussions would somehow be reassuring or illuminating. In any case, those talks appeared stalled on Friday, with a Labour party spokesperson saying that May was offering no “real change or compromise.”

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