EU governments are divided on how long the UK’s departure from the EU can be postponed. France has serious doubts about a delay that goes beyond the European elections at the end of May, say diplomats in Brussels. The British Prime Minister Theresa May has requested a one-time extension until 30 June.
The 27 other heads of government take a decision on Wednesday at a special summit in Brussels, which requires unanimity. Most European governments, including the Netherlands, see more in a longer delay than what May asks for. They hope that this will alleviate the uncertainty and unrest among citizens and businesses about a threatening disorderly Brexit due to a no-deal scenario.
There will almost certainly be a delay because no one wants the British to “drop out” of the EU on Friday midnight, if the current deadline expires, without a divorce deal approved by the British parliament.
French president Emmanuel Macron wants to know before May agree on a new brexit date of what her intention is for the European elections. “It is not obvious that they will participate on 23 May if they leave on 30 June,” said a diplomat. The new European Parliament must be installed on 1 July. May has indicated that she would rather not hold elections, but the organization of it has been set in motion.
If the EU summit opted for a long delay until next spring, for example, this is on condition that the British do not interfere with the functioning of the EU. The withdrawal agreement that May reached with Brussels in November, and that has been voted down three times by its parliament, cannot be renegotiated.