Brexit: UK And EU Agree Delay To 31 October
European Union leaders have granted the UK a six-month extension to Brexit, after five hours of talks in Brussels.
The new deadline – 31 October – averts the prospect of the UK having to leave the EU without a deal on Friday, as MPs are still deadlocked over a deal.
European Council president Donald Tusk said his “message to British friends” was “please do not waste this time”.
Theresa May, who had wanted a shorter delay, said the UK would still aim to leave the EU as soon as possible.
The UK must now hold European elections in May, or leave on 1 June without a deal.
The prime minister will later make a statement on the Brussels summit to the House of Commons, while talks with the Labour Party, aimed at reaching consensus on how to handle Brexit, are set to continue.
Mrs May tweeted: “The choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear. So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest.”
What happens next?
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So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year and they have voted against leaving the EU without a deal.
The EU has ruled out any renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.
Before the summit, Mrs May had told leaders she wanted to move the UK’s exit date from this Friday to 30 June, with the option of leaving earlier if Parliament ratified her agreement.
What is the reaction in the UK?
For Labour, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mrs May was being “inflexible” during negotiations with his party, and that, if this continued, “a public vote of some description, whether it’s a general election or some sort of referendum, actually becomes necessary as a way out of this crisis”.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said one government minister had told her that the latest delay to Brexit could mean a Conservative Party leadership contest after Easter, with a new prime minister potentially in place by June.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “There’s been no progress whatsoever, really.”
He added that it was still “difficult to see how” Mrs May could get her deal with the EU through Parliament and said: “The pressure on her to go will increase dramatically now, I suspect.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted her “relief” that the UK wouldn’t be “crashing out” on Friday, adding that “allowing people to decide if they still want to leave is now imperative”.
What was agreed?
A Brexit extension “only as long as necessary” and “no longer than 31 October” to allow for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement
The UK “must hold the elections to the European Parliament” and if it fails to do this, the UK will leave on 1 June
The European Council reiterates there can be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement negotiations
Read the EU’s conclusions here.
What was the EU’s message?
Donald Tusk emerged from the talks – and a subsequent meeting with Mrs May – to address reporters at a news conference at 02:15 local time (01:15 BST).
“The course of action will be entirely in the UK’s hands,” he said. “They can still ratify the withdrawal agreement, in which case the extension can be terminated.”