EU’s Tusk proposes 12-month ‘flexible’ extension to UK’s Brexit date

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FILE PHOTO - Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk pose before a bilateral meeting at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Pool

The chairman of European Union leaders Donald Tusk is likely to offer Britain a flexible extension of the date of the country’s exit from the EU of up to one year, with the possibility of leaving sooner, a senior EU official said.

The official said the option could be presented to British Prime Minister Theresa May at the EU summit on Brexit on April 10th in Brussels. If May accepted, Britain would have to hold elections to the European parliament in May, the official said.

“The only reasonable way out would be a long but flexible extension. I would call it a ‘flextension’,” the official said.

“We could give the U.K. a year-long extension, automatically terminated once the Withdrawal Agreement has been accepted and ratified by the House of Commons,” the official said.

“And even if this were not possible, then the U.K. would still have enough time to rethink its Brexit strategy. A short extension if possible, and a long one if necessary. It seems to be a good scenario for both sides, as it gives the U.K. all the necessary flexibility, while avoiding the need to meet every few weeks to further discuss Brexit extensions,” he said.

Britain’s exit from the EU, nearly three years since the country voted to leave the bloc, is now in doubt because the British parliament cannot decide what exit terms it wants, just a week before the current Brexit date of April 12.

May offered to quit to get her deal passed but it was defeated for a third time last Friday, the day Britain was originally due to leave the EU.

She is now in talks with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to find a way out of the deadlock, but it is not clear if they can find a solution in the next few days.

Shortly after the word of Tusk’s proposal got out, Prime Minister Theresa May^s letter to the EU was revealed, asking the bloc to delay Britain’s departure until June 30, with the extension ending earlier if parliament approves her Brexit deal.

“The United Kingdom proposes that (the extension) should end on June 30 2019. If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the government proposes that the period should be terminated earlier,” May wrote in a letter to Tusk.

Downing Street released May’s letter moments after a senior EU official told AFP that Tusk was proposing to postpone Brexit day by up to a year, also pending parliament’s approval of the EU-U.K. Withdrawal Agreement.

The current deadline is April 12, which has already been pushed back once from March 29 because of the UK parliament’s failure on three occasions to back the deal May signed with the other 27 EU leaders in December.

In her letter, May said she wanted to make sure that Britain left the bloc after 46 years in an orderly manner, with an agreement that could help unwind intricate political, security, diplomatic and economic ties.

“The government’s policy has always been and remains to leave the European Union in an orderly way, and without undue delay,” May wrote.

“The government agrees that leaving with a deal is the best outcome,” she said.

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