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Gulf Times

EU states postpone decision on Brexit delay

The European Union yesterday agreed to London’s request for a Brexit deadline extension but set no new departure date, giving Britain’s divided parliament time to decide on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a snap election.
“There was full agreement on the need for an extension,” an EU official said after ambassadors to the 27 countries staying together in the bloc met to discuss postponing Britain’s exit, less than a week before the current deadline of October 31.
“Work will continue over the weekend” and the envoys will meet again in Brussels on Monday or Tuesday, the person said. 
A day after admitting that he will not meet his “do or die” deadline of October 31, Johnson said it was up to the EU to decide on an extension but that Britain “should be leaving on October 31”.
“Of course October 31 is still possible — we could leave on October 31 — unfortunately it depends on what the EU says,” he said, adding that if opponents frustrate his bid for an election on December 12 his minority government would not engage in pointless “Brexitology” in parliament.
The EU envoys, who met for about two hours, had been due to discuss the length of a third delay to Brexit but diplomats decided to hold off to let political events play out in London.
One EU diplomat said France pressed the other 26 to wait and favoured a respite until November 15 or November 30 only to keep pressure on the House of Commons to approve Johnson’s deal or face a disorderly Brexit.
“Everyone wanted a decision today. But France had a problem with that and wanted to wait until Monday/Tuesday to see what happens in London,” the diplomat said. “We will come back to this discussion on length after the weekend. And this time is to be used for political consultations.” A French diplomat said the 27 agreed to grant a delay in principle and, unlike before, to do so without convening an emergency summit of EU leaders — a sign of how fed up the EU is with the Brexit saga.
“On the length, we will find an agreement early next week. The work of reaching consensus takes a bit of time but it’s moving forward,” the person added.
French President Emmanuel Macron has previously managed to sway the bloc’s extension decisions significantly, meaning delay options still range from just two weeks to the three months — to January 31, 2020 — requested by Johnson, or even longer should it be clear that Britain is headed for an early election.
Any delay can only be granted unanimously and it could come as little as 60 hours before Britain would otherwise crash out.
According to a draft document seen by Reuters ahead of yesterday’s meeting, a delay was to be granted “with the view to allowing for the finalisation of the ratification” of the divorce agreement sealed with Johnson last week.


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