EU leaders offer May a Halloween Brexit extension

Leaders Meet For An EU Council Summit
EU leaders hammered out a deal with Theresa May (centre) at the last minute (Source: Getty)

EU leaders last night hammered out a proposal to offer Theresa May a Brexit extension until 31 October – Halloween – following a midnight summit in Brussels.

European Council president Donald Tusk had favoured a year-long delay, but French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that a shorter extension would put pressure on the UK to finally agree on a withdrawal deal.

The proposal, which would avoid a no-deal exit tomorrow, would also include a review date in June. Theresa May had previously said that she could not countenance a delay beyond the end of June, and the review date included in last night’s agreement allowed Downing Street to claim a minor diplomatic victory.

However, the PM is facing growing anger from her party after suggesting she would stay on until a withdrawal agreement is agreed upon.

Reports emerged in Westminster yesterday evening that Downing Street officials were telling their EU counterparts that May would stay to oversee a withdrawal deal for however long it took to secure one.

The government is locked in negotiation with the Labour party to find a Brexit compromise that would win the backing of enough MPs, but as things stand no common ground has been found through the cross-party talks. Labour MPs have accused May of refusing to budge on her red lines - including her opposition to formal membership of the customs union.

Asked yesterday if she stood by her comment from last month that she “would not as Prime Minister” sanction a delay past 30 June, May responded by saying the important issue was securing a plan allowing the UK to avoid taking part in European parliament elections – if possible.

Her reticence to commit to leaving Downing Street in the wake of a long extension prompted anger from some Tory backbenchers.

Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who resigned as a ministerial aide last year in protest at May’s Brexit deal, told City A.M.: “The Prime Minister made it clear she couldn’t sanction a delay beyond 30 June. If that is what is going to happen, then she simply must do the honourable thing and stand down.”

Her comments were echoed by veteran Eurosceptic MP Peter Bone, who tweeted: “On the 20th March, at PMQs, I asked the PM about an extension to Article 50. She said ‘As Prime Minister, I could not consider a delay further beyond the 30th June.’ So, if the PM intends to keep her word, can we expect her resignation later tonight?”