Madrid is positioning itself as the harshest national capital in talks over Theresa May’s latest request to delay Britain’s EU divorce until June 30. EU leaders have noted the very “purist and hardline” approach being taken by Spain ahead of the country’s April 28 general election. Sources said the pressure will likely result in a “long list of conditions” for Mrs May to follow if she wants to once again extend the EU’s Article 50 exit clause.
A diplomatic source familiar with the talks warned that Spain and France are paving the way to a long extension with a “separate agreement setting out expectations to the British of its behaviour during the extension period”.
The source added: “Madrid and Paris are taking the divine approach.
“They’re very purist and hardline, plus some added political opportunity for good measure with the upcoming elections in Spain.”
Last week, Mrs May wrote to Donald Tusk, the European Council president, requesting to extend Britain’s stay in the EU until June 30.
But sources believe that is “very unlikely” the Prime Minister’s offer will be accepted with EU leaders instead opting to “go long with set conditions”.
Britain will be expected to hold EU Parliament elections on May 23 unless Mrs May has won the support of MPs for her draft Brexit deal.
But if the Prime Minister can ratify her agreement in the Commons, Britain will be allowed to leave with a deal.
EU leaders will discuss the next steps when they convene in Brussels for an emergency Brexit summit on Wednesday.
They could even demand a five-year extension as they continue to lose faith in Mrs May’s ability to get her deal across the line, as reported by Express.co.uk last week.
One EU diplomat said: “EU leaders want to avoid an uncontrolled no deal and there is no appetite to come back every three weeks to agree another delay, only to be blamed when the UK eventually stumbles out without a deal.
“That leaves a few options with a delay offer of either a nine-month, one-year or even until 2022 or 2024.
“This will give the UK and EU time apart to figure out how best to proceed and we’ll hear from the UK where they want to take this at another time, unless you fail to organise European elections and then it ends there and then.”
Brussels is hopeful that cross-party talks between Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, can produce a result ahead of the summit.
In a personal message to voters this weekend, the Prime Minister signalled she will not seek a fourth vote on her Brexit deal yet also ruled out the UK exiting the bloc without an agreement.
Mrs May said MPs had already rejected her divorce deal three times, adding “as things stand, I can’t see them accepting it”.
She also warned the choice was between leaving the EU with a deal “or not leaving at all”.
The Prime Minister insisted cross-party talks with Mr Corbyn would continue in the hope of finding “a compromise on both sides” capable of winning the support of a majority of MPs.