The Catch-up: The EU just made Brexit even more difficult for Theresa May - here's how

What happened?

Theresa May has finally written to the EU to request a Brexit delay until June 30. She told MPs this afternoon she was only prepared to ask for a short extension, to ensure Britain does not take part in the upcoming European elections.

Simple, right?

Unfortunately, for Mrs May, no. The EU’s response has been lukewarm at best. Donald Tusk said a “short extension” to Article 50 should be possible – but insisted it would be “conditional” upon Mrs May getting MPs to vote in support of her Withdrawal Agreement. This is a huge problem for the Prime Minister who has tried – and spectacularly failed – to get MPs to vote in support of it twice already in recent weeks.

There was not much support from individual EU countries either, with senior ministers in Germany and Spain also placing conditions on any approval. The most interesting potential fly in the ointment could come from Paris, where the response has been even firmer. Shortly after May’s request, senior French officials said Mrs May must be able to guarantee a positive outcome – otherwise France will veto any extension and Britain will still crash out on March 29th. Any extension has to be approved by all 27 EU members remaining in the bloc.

What happens next?

It’s certainly the case that negotiations with Europe often go down to the last minute. Mrs May will try to get her version of the divorce deal passed by MPs at the third attempt next week. If she fails, the EU will hold all the cards as to what happens next. As for Mrs May, she continues to hang on as prime minister… for now at least.

Read more about this story
Q&A: Here’s what could happen next? (The Guardian)
Pound slides as EU resists May’s three-month (Reuters)
Theresa May hints she could quit (HuffPost)
Short Brexit delay is possible, says Tusk (PA)

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