EU approves Brexit delay, breather for Theresa May

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Just when we thought it was the end of Brexit road for Theresa May, the UK prime minister got a lease of few more days to take a decision on exit from European Union.

The EU leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the Article 50 process, postponing Brexit beyond 29 March. The UK will be offered a delay until May 22, if MPs approve the withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU next week.

If they do not, the EU will back a shorter delay until 12 April, allowing the UK time to get the deal through or to “indicate a way forward”.

May said there was now a “clear choice” facing UK MPs, who could vote for a third time on her deal next week, according to British news channel, BBC.

They could back the withdrawal deal, deliver on the referendum and leave the EU in “an orderly manner” or face the prospect of having to stand candidates in the European Parliamentary elections, three years after the UK voted to leave the EU.

She said she would be “working hard to build support for getting the deal through”. She said she had “expressed frustration” in her speech last night, in which she blamed MPs for the delay, but added “I know that MPs are frustrated too” and she was “very grateful” to those who had supported the deal. “I will make every effort to make sure we can leave with a deal and move our country forward,” she said.

In a press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk said that, until 12 April – by when the UK would have to indicate whether it would stand candidates in the 2019 European Parliament elections – “all options remain on the table … the UK government will still have a chance of a deal, no deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50”.

If the UK has not decided by 12 April whether to take part in the elections the “option of a long extension will automatically become impossible”, he said.

He added that the atmosphere was “much better than I had expected” among EU leaders in discussions and he was now “much more optimistic”.

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