Prime Minister Theresa May has today met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for crunch talks on Brexit to extend the current deadline beyond Friday. The UK is poised to exit the European Union on Friday with no deal unless Mrs May can convince EU27 leaders to grant another delay at an emergency summit tomorrow. EU president Donald Tusk has suggested a “flexible” 12-month delay, a suggestion met coolly by some EU nations.
The bloc remains divided on how it wishes to progresses with several nations prepared for the UK to exit on Friday as things stand.
Adding to the complication are the forthcoming European Parliament elections between May 23 and 26, which the UK cannot participate in unless it remains in the EU.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron is seen as the biggest threat to an Article 50 extension as the country’s Government is opposed to any further delays.
Political journalist Robert Preston earlier outlined three reasons why the French leader could veto a year-long Brexit delay.
Writing on the ITV website, he said Mr Macron “sees merit in punishing the UK for Brexiting in order to deter populists in other EU countries from pursuing agendas to extricate their respective nations from the EU”.
The broadcaster also stated Mr Macron is worried about potential successors to Mrs May, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg who has voted to abandon the “duty of sincere co-operation” with EU members.
The final reason is that the president has a “penchant for big ideas and ambitious projects” and will not want to “muddle” through any further Brexit delay, according to Mr Peston.
France has separately signalled it does not want the UK participating in the forthcoming European elections.
Earlier this month, Mr Macron said the EU would not be held hostage to the “political crisis” in the UK while hosting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Paris on a visit.
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has said the UK has failed to outline what it wants from an extension.
Speaking last week, he said: “The plan was that the British would explain what they wanted from the EU.
“A letter was sent today which, as far as I am concerned, doesn’t answer this request.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says the EU has set “very clear deadlines and there is no reason to further extend those deadlines”.
He added: ”Unless the facts in Britain change. But we have not yet reached this point.
Madrid is one of the harshest critics against another Article 50 extension and has reportedly sided with France and Belgium in gearing up for a no-deal Brexit.
The Guardian reported on Saturday it had seen a note at a EU27 meeting in which the French ambassador had got the two countries to agree to a short extension only.
The note said: “We could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets.”
A spokesman for the Belgium prime minister rejected claims, however, that the country was opposed to Mr Tusk’s “flextension”.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras revealed a few days ago he was still grappling with the situation and found the current Parliament deadlock baffling.
Recalling a conversation he had had with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, he said: “The truth is we are a little bit, err… how should I put it, we feel a bit surprised at the inability of the British political systems to reach a common position.”
George Ciamba, the Romanian foreign affairs minister, told a press conference today the UK was using a Brexit delay as an instrument rather than a plan.
He also tweeted earlier: “It is important for us to understand why the UK wants to stay (longer), you have to stay with a view to something.”
His quote accompanied a link to a New York Times article titled ‘Britain Must Say How It Wants to Use Brexit Extension: EU Presidency’.