LONDON – With just two days to go before Britain is due to leave the European Union the country faced a new crossroads Wednesday as the bloc’s leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels to decide whether to grant the country another Brexit delay.
Prime Minister Theresa May has requested a second Brexit extension until June 30 to prevent Britain from leaving the EU without a formal withdrawal deal in place, a potentially calamitous “no-deal” Brexit that could cause serious damage to Britain’s economy and risks unleashing chaos on its borders as well as a public health crisis.
EU leaders are expected to offer May a much longer, flexible extension – up to a year.
But it could come with conditions that will not make it any easier for May to get British lawmakers to approve the EU exit deal she has negotiated, and that they have voted down three times already. Many lawmakers from May’s ruling Conservative Party want to renegotiate May’s EU withdrawal agreement. The EU has ruled this out.
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British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after addressing a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on March 22, 2019. (Photo: Frank Augstein, AP)
Any agreement from the EU’s 27 other leaders on an extension must be unanimous.
Ahead of the emergency summit in Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk suggested that a Brexit delay of a year with conditions attached may be necessary to ensure Britain does not stymie EU decision making if it remains an interim member.
Wednesday’s summit begins in the evening and could run through Thursday. Britain will leave the EU at 11 p.m. (6 p.m. ET) on Friday if a new extension is not granted.
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May’s Conservatives are continuing to hold cross-party talks with Britain’s opposition Labour Party as part of efforts to find a compromise Brexit deal that May would be able to get passed in Parliament. Brexit’s hardline supporters fear this could leave Britain tethered to the bloc when it comes to trade or immigration policies.
Some Conservative lawmakers have been publicly calling for May to resign. She previously pledged to step down once a Brexit deal with the EU is completed and approved by Parliament. May did not set a date for her departure.
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