Leaked document: EU leaders to offer Brexit extension

EU leaders are set to offer the U.K. a further extension to the Brexit timetable, but the key final date is yet to be decided, according to draft conclusions of the European Council summit to be held on Wednesday evening.

The document, seen by POLITICO, states that the European Council will grant an extension of the Article 50 negotiating period to allow for “ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.” But on the ultimate end date for the extension it says, “Such an extension should last only as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than [XX.XX.XXXX1 ].” The key date will be decided by leaders when they meet in Brussels Wednesday evening.

The document adds: “If the UK is still a Member of the EU on 23-26 May 2019 and if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, it must hold the elections to the European Parliament in accordance with Union law. If the United Kingdom fails to live up to this obligation, the withdrawal will take place on 1 June 2019.”

The draft conclusions reiterate that the extension cannot be used by the U.K. to begin negotiations on its future relationship and that the EU will not contemplate reopening the Withdrawal Agreement — although the EU is prepared to reconsider the text of the Political Declaration. Also, “any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and must not hamper its implementation.”

One key issue has been whether the U.K. might “go rogue” during an extension and seek to obstruct EU business. The draft states: “The European Council takes note of the commitment by the United Kingdom to act in a constructive and responsible manner throughout this unique period in accordance with the duty of sincere cooperation and expects the United Kingdom to fulfil this Treaty obligation in a manner that reflects its situation as a withdrawing Member State.

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