Britain will remain a member of the European Union if the leaders of the remaining 27 member states agree to a lengthy Brexit extension during an emergency summit in Brussels on Wednesday. Should the delayed be agreed unanimously, British parties will be required to field candidates to stand for the European parliamentary elections scheduled for May 23-May 26. But BBC‘s Europe editor Katya Adler suggested taking part in the elections could trigger unexpected consequences forcing the UK to stay inside the bloc until 2024 –eight years after the Brexit referendum.
Speaking from Brussels ahead of the emergency EU27 summit, the BBC editor said: “One high-level diplomat recently described it to me as a farce. The idea a leaving nation should take part in European parliamentary elections, bringing in new MEPs to sit in the European Parliament.
“The fact is nobody here wants to undermine the working of the EU as long as the UK remains a member and therefore, if the UK remains a part of the EU past May 22, it will have to take part in European parliamentary election.
“One of the worries here, and Michel Barnier has picked up on this recently and emphasised this to EU leaders, is that once the UK has MEPs in Parliament they sit for five years.
“We are talking about a one-year extension now but it could be repeated and repeated until that five-year period, in theory.”
European Parliament Antonio Tajani however appeared to dismiss the suggestion British MEPs will be allowed to stay in their post for the whole length of their mandate.
Mr Tajani told the press in Brussels: “I have been asked, if in the event of withdrawal after the elections, what British representatives elected for a five-year period should do.
“There is no chance for them to stay in the European Parliament because they will not be allowed to make decisions for EU citizens as MEPs of a country that is no longer of the European Union.”
Brussels is expected to offer Theresa May an extension of up to 12 months, a period six months longer than the extension to June 30 the Prime Minister requested last week.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he is looking forward to a “friendly divorce” between Britain and the bloc.
However, he also admitted to hoping the UK will accept an “intelligent extension” rather than keep on asking for short ones.
Mr Bettel said: “I hope we will not have meetings every few weeks for new extensions.
“I said a few weeks ago I’m still waiting for Godot – still no Godot.
“I’m not fed up because it is proof that to be a member of the EU is good. It’s a pity that we needed a divorce to show how many advantages you have to be a member of the family.”
He said: “One thing I would like to see considered and which is under consideration is the possibility of a customs union being formed between the UK and EU.
“Ultimately the EU is the biggest trading bloc in the world, we trade more than China, we have a bigger population than the US, and in a world of big blocs, it’s in the interests of the UK to be part of one of those blocs.
“It’s also in our interest to have the UK to be in our bloc and I think we would be generous in understanding that the UK couldn’t be a silent partner and would have to have a say in decisions being made.”
Mr Varadkar added he is confident the EU will agree on an extension today.