James Forsyth

Donald Tusk doesn’t rule out a long extension

Donald Tusk doesn't rule out a long extension
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Donald Tusk has just declared that the UK can have a short extension if MPs vote for the Brexit deal next week. The Tusk statement implies that if MPs don’t vote for the withdrawal agreement, then the UK can’t have an extension—and so will leave without a deal. I suspect that we’ll see Number 10 trying to use this line to cajole Labour MPs into voting with the government next week.

But I don’t think what Tusk was saying was quite that simple. His message was that if the UK wants a short extension then the meaningful vote needs to pass next week, as per the timetable set out in Theresa May’s letter. But this doesn’t totally rule out the idea of a longer extension—involving European Parliament elections and all that—if the Commons rejects May’s deal again.

Tusk made clear that the EU and the leaders of its member states are getting Brexit fatigue. I would still, though, be surprised if the EU wanted to put itself in a position where it looked like it had forced no deal. But given that any extension has to be agreed unanimously, if the Brexit deal doesn’t pass next week then the chances of no deal will increase.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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