UK, EU agree ‘flexible’ Brexit delay to Oct 31 

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UK, EU agree ‘flexible’ Brexit delay to Oct 31 

Brussels: The UK and the European Union (EU) have agreed on a “flexible” Brexit delay until October 31, with the option to leave earlier if British Prime Minister Theresa May can secure Parliament’s support for a withdrawal deal, media reports said.

After a working dinner that dragged long into Wednesday night, leaders of the 27 EU nations agreed another delay to Britain’s scheduled withdrawal from the bloc. European leaders were unconvinced by May’s promise that the UK would leave by the end of June, CNN reported.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who had originally proposed an extension of up to a year, confirmed the UK had accepted the deal.

“The course of action will be entirely in the UK’s hands: they can still ratify the withdrawal agreement, in which case the extension can be terminated,” he told the media here, adding that the UK could also rethink its strategy or choose to “cancel Brexit altogether”, the BBC reported.

“Let me finish with a message to our British friends: This extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it’s still enough to find the best possible solution.

“Please do not waste this time,” Tusk added.

The UK was meant to leave the EU on March 29 which was later extended to April 12.

The new extension means that Britain will more than likely have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23, nearly three years after the British people voted to leave the EU.

If the UK does not participate in the European Parliament elections, then it will crash out of the bloc without a deal on June 1.

Also on Wednesday night, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “There will probably be a European election in the UK – that might seem a bit odd, but rules are rules and we must respect European law and then we will see what happens.”

Following the meeting, May spoke to the media early Thursday morning, saying that although the delay extends until October 31, the UK can leave before then if MPs pass her withdrawal deal.

“I know that there is huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension. The UK should have left the EU by now and I sincerely regret the fact that I have not yet been able to persuade Parliament to approve a deal.

“I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy, or there is a simple way to break the deadlock in Parliament. But we have a duty as politicians to find a way to fulfil the democratic decision of the referendum, deliver Brexit and move our country forward. Nothing is more pressing or more vital,” she said

May added that the UK “will continue to hold full membership rights and obligations (of the EU)” during the delay.

The Prime Minister is slated to address the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon regarding the outcome of the Wednesday meeting.