Britain is likely to be offered a final long extension ending on 31 December after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, failed to convince the the bloc’s capitals that Theresa May has a plan to break the Brexit impasse.
A number of member states, most prominently France, along with Slovenia, Greece, Austria and Spain, remain sceptical about a lengthy extension, citing the risks to the EU of Britain behaving badly.
Barnier implored EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg to keep the pressure on MPs to back the deal by supporting May’s request for a Brexit delay only up until 30 June, a leaked diplomatic note of the debate reveals.
But, according to the note seen by the Guardian, there is instead growing support for the idea of a lengthy extension, with around nine months looking likely. None of the EU27 ruled out such a delay, instead insisting on a mechanism to keep check on the British government’s behaviour.
The prime minister has written to Brussels asking for a limited extension until 30 June to allow her to get the withdrawal agreement approved in the Commons.
But, before May’s meetings on Tuesday with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in Paris, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin, Roth offered a downbeat assessment of the state of play.
It’s groundhog day again, he said. Unfortunately I have to say that the conditions the European council has decided on in its last meeting have not been met. This means time will run out on 12 April.
A lack of confidence in May’s ability to find a majority for her withdrawal agreement has made a long extension of up to a year attractive to some EU capitals who want to avoid being repeatedly dragged into the Brexit drama.
Meanwhile, France has in recent days warned that having not found a clear plan to get the Brexit deal passed in the Commons, the UK government will have chosen by default to crash out of the bloc.
The UK is due to leave by 12 April unless the British government is able to indicate a way forward, which it is yet to do.