Tusk: Brexit extension possible – but conditional on positive agreement vote

A short extension on the Article 50 period of Brexit is possible – but will be conditional to a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the UK, according to President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

Speaking today (Wednesday, March 20), the president said: “Today I received a letter from Prime Minister May, in which she addresses the European Council with two requests.”

These, he said, are to: approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement between the UK and the European Commission; and to extend the Article 50 period until June 30.

“Just now I had a phone call with Prime Minister May about these proposals,” he added.

In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.

“The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal of June 30, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature.”

President Tusk confirmed that EU leaders will discuss the matter tomorrow, adding that he believes that the approval of the Strasbourg agreement is possible.

“In my view it does not create risks. Especially if it were to help the ratification process in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“At this time I do not foresee an extraordinary European Council. If the leaders approve my recommendations, and if there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the decision on the extension in a written procedure.”

The president stressed, however, that if there is a need he will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council for a meeting to Brussels next week.

Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution, of course without opening up the withdrawal agreement.

“We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events, and I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill at this most critical point in this process,” President Tusk concluded.

The UK parliament is currently engaged in an emergency debate on the matter, with MPs deliberating on the Brexit delay proposals.