Macron Ramps Up Pressure on UK: Only 2 Days to Decide on May's Extension Request
The Guardian Live reports May Arrives at EU Summit Refusing to Say if She Will Resign if UK has to Stay in Beyond June.
Barnier Stipulates There Must Be a Reason
There clearly is a reason. May is in bed with Jeremy Corbyn. The key point is whether or not all 27 nations agree.
Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, proposed “an intelligent extension” as he arrived at the summit. Asked what length extension he favoured, he said:
I would support an intelligent extension. If it’s long or short, the main point for me is that we have European elections. You can’t be a member and have no elections ... If there is a longer extension, there is no lunch for free. So we need to know why, the reason they need a longer extension.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, lived up to his reputation as the most Anglo-sceptic of the EU’s leaders (at least in the context of Brexit) in his remarks to journalists as he arrived.
Laurence Norman on Macron
Donald Tusk has never left any doubt that he wants the UK to cancel Brexit. Hence, his idea of a one-year extension. We presume that the leaks came from his office. But we know for sure that this is not everybody’s position in the European Council. There are huge risks for the EU in a second referendum, most notably the risk of another pro-Brexit vote and the certainty that the UK will continue to dominate the EU’s agenda at a time when it should really be thinking about something else. Furthermore, by agreeing a long extension, EU leaders are very likely to take away the incentive for the UK government and the Labour Party to agree a deal, because the second-referendum supporters would no longer feel obliged to seek a compromise.
The EU is not only misjudging the potential outcome of a referendum, but also the debate likely to precede it. A second referendum is almost certain to confound two issues: Brexit and democratic legitimacy. We know of Remainers who are so revolted by the idea of a second referendum that they would support Brexit out of spite. Whatever the outcome, we don’t think it would settle the issue.
We don’t know for sure how long Theresa May will survive. Maybe until the autumn. If she does not deliver Brexit by December and is still prime minister then, she will surely be ousted in a vote of confidence by her own party. A new Tory leader will be in place by early 2020 at the latest. The EU would then rely on that leader to deliver Brexit.
There is talk of an agreement between May and the European Council that the UK would exercise self-restraint during the extension period. But the European Council cannot bind her successors. It cannot override treaty law. Until it leaves, the UK will remain a full voting member at the Council.
A non-binding gentlemen’s agreement is certainly possible, but do EU leaders really believe that a future UK prime minister who openly advocates a no-deal Brexit would adhere to such an agreement? All Boris Johnson would need to do to trigger a no-deal Brexit would be to misbehave. The proposition of a gentlemen’s agreement seems ill-conceived to us, drawn up deep inside the European Council by people without a deep understanding of UK politics.
Case for a Short Extension
Eurointelligence sums up the case for a short "final" extension nicely.
Macron will press for such an extension, say until the end of June, or more likely to May 22, before the next European elections. Otherwise, the UK will still have to run EU parliament elections, just in case. And that is something France definitely does not want.
Tusk does wants a long extension, but France would have to go along.
What to Expect
It is by no means certain that Labour and May can come to agreement, but since the alternative is a no-deal Brexit, I expect them to work things out with extremely sloppy kisses.
If so, that will put a disgusting end to this mess with the UK worse off than if it never left in the first place.
My Suggestion Still Stands
The Tories (it only takes one) need to come to their senses and file a motion of no confidence against May.
They would then have no worse than a 50-50 chance of delivering a hard Brexit following the resultant elections. Better yet, France might not want to wait for those elections, even if the rest of the EU did.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock