Theresa May's request for further Brexit delay met with fury

Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council president Donald Tusk (PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council president Donald Tusk (PA)

Theresa May triggered a barrage of furious criticism after writing to the EU asking for a further delay to Brexit.

The PM asked European Council president Donald Tusk for an extension to Article 50 until June 30.

Brexiteers and supporters of a second referendum were quick to batter the latest Brexit move from Mrs May.

Tory Brexiteer Mark Francois said Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk was a ‘mistake’.

“We don’t need to ask for an extension to the 30th June or any other date – we should just leave the European Union because that’s what 17.4 million people voted for,” he told the BBC.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “This is yet another desperate move from a failing Prime Minister.

“The EU has been clear that we must have a clear purpose for any extension.”

Donald Tusk (PA)
Donald Tusk (PA)

Meanwhile, Tusk and other EU officials are considering offering the PM a flexible extension – or “flextension” – to the Article 50 timetable to March 31 2020.

According to the BBC, Tusk is preparing to put the option to EU leaders at a crunch summit next Wednesday in a bid to prevent the UK crashing out of the bloc on April 12.

Top-level talks aimed at finding a way out of the Brexit deadlock will continue between the Government and Labour today (Friday).

The discussions are taking place as Theresa May battles to keep her EU withdrawal agenda on track, with the issue of a new Brexit referendum continuing to be a focus of attention.

Ministers have considered the possibility of giving MPs a vote on holding a referendum on a deal as part of the talks with Labour, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It is understood the Government could set out proposals to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a letter today.

Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk (PA)
Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk (PA)

Meanwhile, European parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt raised the prospect of a delay being rejected in a Twitter exchange with arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier today.

Rees-Mogg tweeted that we should be “as difficult as possible” if a long extension leaves us “stuck” in the EU, vetoing budget increases, obstructing “the putative EU army” and blocking “Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes”.

In response, Verhofstadt said that anyone wishing to extend the Brexit saga should “be careful what you wish for”.

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Mrs May faces a continued challenge to her authority from Parliament as the House of Lords debate a Bill aimed at extending the Brexit process in a bid to avoid a no-deal scenario.

The remaining stages of the European Union Withdrawal (No.5) Bill will be considered by peers on Monday, threatening a new political headache for the PM if it is approved.

The Bill, brought forward by backbenchers including Labour’s Yvette Cooper, allows Parliament to determine the length of any Brexit extension the Prime Minister should request at the EU summit on April 10.

If the European Council proposes a different extension, Mrs May would be required to return to the Commons to obtain MPs’ approval.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the Bill would leave the PM with little room to manoeuvre.

Referring to the Bill’s impact on a no-deal option, the Attorney General told the BBC: “It rules it out… the Prime Minister would have little choice but to accept the extension that she’s offered.”

Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on April 3 (House of Commons/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on April 3 (House of Commons/PA Wire)

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh predicted a number of her colleagues could quit the party over the issue of a new referendum.

Ms McDonagh told the BBC: “There is going to be outrage if we don’t get a second vote.

“Would it be the thing that made me leave the party? I don’t think so, there are other issues for me.

“But, would it make some of my colleagues in the parliamentary Labour Party? Yes, a number have said to me that would be the moment that they would leave.”

However, a number of Labour MPs representing Leave areas have come out against the idea of a confirmatory referendum.

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