The European Union (EU) has agreed on a plan to delay the Brexit process that avoids the UK crashing out without a deal and throws one last lifeline to British Prime Minister Theresa May.
After hours of negotiations that stretched late into the night on Thursday in Brussels, the EU rejected May’s proposal for a Brexit delay and imposed their own, a two-part timetable, reports CNN.
The revised deal was agreed after a tense summit at which May failed to convince EU leaders that she could persuade British lawmakers to pass her overall Withdrawal Agreement next week and therefore avoid a no-deal Brexit on March 29.
Under the EU plan, if the House of Commons passes the deal, Britain will leave the EU on May 22. But if May’s agreement is once again rejected, the UK will get an unconditional Brexit delay until April 12 to bring new proposals for a way out of the impasse.
In that scenario, if the UK agrees to take part in European Parliament elections in May, the possibility would be open for a further extension of several months.
“What this means in practice is that until that date, all options will remain open and the cliff-edge will be delayed,” European Council President Donald Tusk told the media following the talks.
“The UK government is to have a choice of a deal, her deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50 (the mechanism taking the UK out of the EU).”
Following the agreement, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the “atmosphere was good”, noting that the EU’s patience had been tested but had not run out, CNN reported.
“We are yet to see what the limits of our patience are,” he said.
May, who had gone to Brussels seeking an extension until June 30, said she welcomed the council’s decision.
She said she would return to the UK on Friday, where she would “make every effort to ensure that we are able to leave with a deal and move our country forward”.
May will now have to persuade UK lawmakers to back her deal in Parliament, where she faces an uphill battle — particularly after alienating many when she blamed them for the Brexit chaos in an uncompromising statement in Downing Street on Wednesday.
MPs have already rejected the deal twice — first by a record 230, and last week by 149.
Meanwhile, more than 2 million people have signed an online petition urging Parliament to revoke Article 50 and prevent Brexit.
The traffic has caused Parliament’s official petitions site to crash repeatedly on Thursday.
Between 80,000 and 100,000 people have been simultaneously viewing the petition, with nearly 2,000 signatures being completed every minute, the website said.
Petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures are considered for a parliamentary debate.
May said on Thursday that she had no intention of reversing the Brexit process.