Delay secured as May Brexit fight returns to parliament

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 12 Apr 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May will try to convince her splintered country to accept a Brexit delay of up to six months she secured from European Union leaders, to the fury of many in her own party.

May's 27 EU counterparts spent another night in Brussels clinching a compromise timetable for the unwinding of nearly half a century of ties that have been guiding many of Britain's policies.

Britain will be able to leave before October 31 if its parliament manages to finally ratify the ill-loved deal May reached with the bloc and that has been behind all the political drama and anguish in London.

It could also still crash out on June 1 if it refuses to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23 - three years after Britons narrowly voted to leave.

May will try to use the delay threat to secure votes from Brexit-backing lawmakers who keep voting against her because they view Britain's current withdrawal terms as an abdication to Brussels.

"The EU have agreed that the extension can be terminated when the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified," May said. "If we're able to do that before May 22, then we won't have to hold European parliamentary elections."

The pound rose slightly in relief that the sides had managed to avoid a messy divorce that would have loomed had the current Brexit extension expired tonight without a new delay.

The delay avoids a possibly economic calamity on both sides of the Channel but does little to resolve the political morass that has seen May's control over her Conservative Party and cabinet gradually slip.

Top anti-EU Conservatives lined up to take shots at their party leader while her Northern Irish coalition partners prepared for meetings in Brussels at which they could air their grievances with the plan.

"The pressure on her to go will increase dramatically, I suspect, now," May's former Brexit secretary David Davis said.

May did get an unexpected boost in the shape of a tweet from US President Donald Trump - a leader whose protectionist agenda has him locking horns with Brussels over trade.

"Too bad that the European Union is being so tough on the United Kingdom and Brexit," Trump wrote.

May last week decided to focus on finding a compromise with the opposition Labour Party that could help ease her deal through in time for Britain to leave without taking part in the European vote.

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