Brexit: The past seven days
It was the week when Brexit was delayed again and when voters had to get their heads around the idea they’d be electing MEPs to join a European Parliament which they voted to leave almost three years ago.
So what has happened and what will happen next?
– Days to go
202, if the UK leaves on the new Brexit deadline of October 31. However, if the UK ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement before then, it would leave on the first day of the following month, meaning Brexit could conceivably be 50, 80, 111, 142 or 172 days away. Or it could be extended again for an unknown number of days.
– What happened this week?
Cross-party talks designed to break the Brexit deadlock seemed to run into the sand at the start of the week, with Labour complaining that Theresa May was not willing to shift from her red lines. Monday saw the passage in double-quick time of Yvette Cooper’s bill to block a no-deal Brexit. This in turn forced a vote on Tuesday approving the Prime Minister’s decision to ask for an extension to the Article 50 talks process.
In Brussels on Wednesday, Mrs May’s request for a short extension to June 30 was rejected by leaders of the remaining 27 states, but European Council president Donald Tusk’s proposal of a year-long delay was also turned down after stiff resistance from France’s Emmanuel Macron. Instead, a compromise extension to October 31 was agreed, with the option for the UK to leave earlier if it ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement. The deal was denounced as a humiliation by some Brexiteers and led to calls for Mrs May’s resignation from her own backbenches in a Commons debate on Thursday.
– What happens next?
Parliament has gone into recess until April 23, giving MPs a much-needed respite from constant Brexit debates and late-night votes. But cross-party talks continue between the Government and Labour in the hunt for a consensus solution.
– Good week
The French President was alone among EU leaders in demanding a short extension to the Article 50 process at Wednesday’s emergency summit. He warned that allowing the UK to remain for month after month could prove disruptive to the European project and his own plans for reform. The compromise solution reached in the early hours fell well short of the long extension favoured by Germany’s Angela Merkel.
– Bad week
European Research Group
Having blocked Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement on three occasions and seen the totemic date of March 29 pass with the UK still in the EU, the Leave-backing Tories of the ERG saw their dream of independence slip away further into the future. Mrs May left no doubt she blames them for stopping Brexit happening, and Daniel Kawczynski quit the group, claiming a “hardcore element of unicorn dreamers” were “endangering Brexit”.
– Quote of the week
“Does my Right Honorable Friend appreciate the anger that her abject surrender last night has generated across the country? … Will she resign?”
– Veteran eurosceptic Conservative MP Sir William Cash, in the House of Commons after the Prime Minister reported back from the Brussels summit.
– Tweet of the week
“We now face the farce of EU elections nearly three years after the British people voted to leave. The Government has ditched every major commitment it has made to the country. We must change course and deliver what the people voted for.”
– Boris Johnson, stopping just short of launching his bid for the Conservative leadership.
– Word of the week
The date chosen for the next Brexit deadline was an inauspicious one for Theresa May, but a gift to headline writers and cartoonists, who went to town with references to the PM’s “nightmare” extension and the “trick or treat” deal.