EU delays Brexit date to Hallowe'en - with a review in June - on a bruising night in Brussels: Brexit News for Thursday 11 April

EU delays Brexit date to Hallowe'en - with a review in June - on a bruising night in Brussels: Brexit News for Thursday 11 April
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EU delays Brexit date to Hallowe’en – with a review in June – on a bruising night in Brussels…

Brexit is set to be delayed until Hallowe’en after EU leaders imposed a six-month Article 50 extension on Theresa May. On another bruising night in Brussels, the Prime Minister’s request for a shorter delay was rejected in favour of an October 31 exit date. The delay means Britain will almost certainly take part in next month’s European elections, prompting fury among Eurosceptic MPs. Mrs May was still clinging to the hope on Thursday morning that she can persuade Parliament to ratify a Withdrawal Agreement in time to avoid the European elections, but EU leaders dismissed the idea and were already talking about the possibility of a further extension beyond October. Mrs May insisted that Britain would be out of the EU by the end of October “at the latest” and said that “vitally” the deal allowed Britain to leave as soon as a deal was ratified by Parliament. – Telegraph (£)

  • EU leaders give Britain six months until Brexit – The Times (£)
  • UK and EU agree delay to 31 October – BBC News
  • Brexit delayed until October as EU unity shatters at summit – Express

> On BrexitCentral: Theresa May and EU agree flexible extension to Article 50 period until 31st October 2019

…with President Macron haunting EU leaders in the Brexit witching hour as he forces a shorter extension

As midnight came and went in Brussels, weary EU leaders were ready to agree a nine-month extension of Article 50. But one man was keeping them all from their beds: a highly worked-up Emmanuel Macron. The French President was adamant that Britain should be ejected from the EU in less than a month’s time, deal or no deal. Four hours later, the leaders had spoken and a compromise was reached – October 31. Seventeen EU member states had argued for a long extension, three were “open-minded”, four wanted a short extension but were happy to go with the majority, while one – Mr Macron – insisted it should be a short delay or no deal. “The British people have chosen to leave the European Union,” he had said before the session began. “It is not up to us to do everything to prevent it happening.” – Telegraph (£)

Macron and Merkel serve up a Brexit fudge after dispute over dinner

France and Germany reached an uneasy compromise last night after President Macron and Angela Merkel disagreed over whether Britain should be humiliated as the price of a delay to Brexit. A complicated deal that allowed both leaders to claim victory came after clashes over a summit dinner on the extent to which the European Union valued good relations with Britain. At just before 2am in Brussels, Donald Tusk, the European Council president, wrote on Twitter: “EU27 has agreed an extension of Art. 50. I will now meet PM @theresa_may for the UK government’s agreement.” Just over an hour later Mr Tusk again tweeted to confirm that the EU27 and the UK had agreed “a flexible extension until October 31”. He added: “This means additional six months for the UK to find the best possible solution.” Mrs May had been questioned for an hour by EU leaders about how she planned to get her Brexit deal through parliament before the row between Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel, the German chancellor, erupted over dinner. – The Times (£)

Theresa May refuses to apologise over the further delay – and points the finger at MPs for blocking her deal

Theresa May has refused to apologise after  EU leaders imposed a six-month Article 50 extension on Britain – meaning the UK will almost certainly take part in next month’s European elections. At a press conference in Brussels after Brexit was pushed back to October 31, the Prime Minister was asked if she owed the country an apology for not securing the withdrawal by now. “Over the last three months I have voted three times to leave the European Union,” she replied. “If sufficient members of Parliament had voted with me in January we would already be out of the European Union. We haven’t been able to get the majority in Parliament. As you know I have been reaching out to find a way in which we can get an agreement that will command a majority across the House of Commons.” – Telegraph (£)

> WATCH: Theresa May’s 3am press conference

Tory 1922 Committee chiefs will reportedly tell May to quit next month so a new leader can take over Brexit in July…

Powerful backbench Tory bosses tonight finalised plans to lay out a timetable for Theresa May to quit as PM by July if she signs Britain up to a lengthy Brexit delay. At an hour-long meeting in Parliament the 18-strong executive of the Tory 1922 committee decided they would persuade her to quit as Tory leader by May 23 and formally launch a leadership contest. They even discussed plans to change party rules to oust Mrs May if she refuses to sign up to their recommended timetable. It comes after The Sun revealed today that Cabinet ministers believe she will be ousted when the Tories suffer a council elections bloodbath in the May 2 poll. The 1922 handover plans – which MPs aim to present to No10 if Brexit is extended by a year – would see a new leader taking over as Prime Minister in June or July – allowing them the summer holidays to assemble their new Cabinet. It could even pave the way for an autumn General Election, sources said. One of the 1922 executive members at the meeting told The Sun: “There was a universal view that if it’s a long extension then what we can’t have the PM sitting there for the duration.” – The Sun

…but the PM is said to be standing by her pledge to cling on until a Brexit deal is done

Theresa May will attempt to cling to power during the Brexit delay as Conservative sources said she was sticking by her pledge to see through the first phase of talks and pass a withdrawal deal. As EU leaders gathered to discuss an extension to article 50 of about nine months, May dropped her promise not to allow a delay to Brexit beyond 30 June while she was prime minister. However, she is abiding by her decision to step down only once a Brexit deal with the EU has been passed by parliament, meaning she looks likely to stay on and keep trying to push through a withdrawal agreement for as long as it takes. Arriving at the talks, May signalled she would accept a much longer delay from EU leaders – expected to be nine to 12 months – as long as there was a “break clause” allowing the UK to leave as soon as MPs approve a deal with a meaningful vote. – Guardian

Senior Tories urge fed-up Brexiteer ministers not to resign as it would collapse the Government

Senior Tories are urging fed up Brexit-backing Ministers not to resign – because it could collapse the Government. Sources told The Sun that a number of junior Ministers want to follow Chris Heaton-Harris and Nigel Adams out the door after they both quit over the PM’s cross party talks with Labour. Cabinet Ministers have also threatened to walk out over a possible second referendum. But senior Tories are begging them to stay – to retain a “balance of power” with Remain Ministers, but also because it could hand the keys of power to Jeremy Corbyn. One insider said: “We’re telling them that if they quit the whole thing could go, it’s that bad. We’re hardly keeping the show on the road as it is, the Government is hanging on by a thread. We’re doing nothing on housing, nothing on areas that should be key to the party.” – The Sun

More indicative votes expected if Government’s Brexit talks with Labour fizzle out

Talks between Labour and the government are set to resume today after ministers raised the prospect of another set of votes on different options if they fail. Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, said that Theresa May would try to find “consensus” in the Commons if she could not arrive at one in the cross-party talks soon. The prime minister announced last Tuesday that she wanted to meet Labour to “break the logjam”. She also said that if the two parties could not come to a “single unified approach” they would instead “agree a number of options for the future relationship that we could put to the house in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue”. Importantly, she added that “the government stands ready to abide by the decision of the house” in that scenario. Yesterday Mr Barclay revived the idea, telling the BBC that if agreement could not be reached in the talks then Mrs May “will come back to parliament and look at how we then get clarity on a vote”. – The Times (£)

Britain could have ‘a say’ in trade deals if it joins customs union, Irish Prime Minister suggests…

Britain should have “a say” in any future customs union it joined with the European Union after Brexit, Ireland’s prime minister has said. Leo Varadkar’s intervention comes amid talks between Labour and the government over whether the UK should have such a trade arrangement after Brexit. Mr Varadkar said the UK would not be a “silent partner” in a customs union and that it was in the interests of both the EU and UK to sign a deal. “I know one thing that I would like to be considered, and I know it is under consideration, is the possibly of a customs union being formed between the UK and the EU,” he told reporters on the doorstep of a summit in Brussels. “Ultimately … in a world of big blocs it’s in the interests of the UK to be part of one of those blocs. It’s also in our interest to have the UK in our bloc.” – Independent

…but President Macron warns Theresa May that Britain would have no say over trade in a Brexit customs union

Emmanuel Macron will warn Theresa May that Britain will never have a say over trade negotiations if it joins a customs union with the EU at tonight’s summit in Brussels, in a blow to the prime minister’s hopes of securing a cross-party Brexit compromise. Mr Macron will insist that whatever the result of cross-party talks on the future UK-EU relationship, the “autonomy of EU decision-making” must be protected, including on trade. Whatever compromise is found, Mr Macron will warn, it must respect the EU’s long-held Brexit red lines and will not allow any “cherry-picking”. An EU diplomat said, “If Britain relaxes its Brexit red lines, we can help but we are not changing any of our red lines.” – Telegraph (£)

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani warns UK that the EU election ‘is not a game’

The European Parliament “doesn’t intend to be ridiculed” and the EU election is “not a game,” said its president, Antonio Tajani, after he briefed EU leaders on the Parliament’s view on another Brexit extension. Tajani’s statement came as a message to British Prime Minister Theresa May that MEPs are not impressed with her plan to embark on the European Parliament election, but then pull the U.K.’s participation either partway through the campaign or shortly afterward. On her own way into a special summit of EU leaders Wednesday, at which May presented her request for an additional Brexit extension, the British prime minister said she still believed the U.K. could leave by May 22, the day before the election begins. – Politico

More than 400,000 EU nationals have already applied to stay in the UK after Brexit

More than 400,000 European nationals have applied to secure their stay in the UK after Brexit, the Home Office has disclosed. The number of applications received by the EU settlement scheme has increased by about 200,000 since it went live at the end of last month. More than 230,000 people applied during test phases before the full launch on 30 March. The Home Office also announced that 57 organisations would receive funding to help vulnerable applicants. Up to £9m has been set aside to ensure support is available to an estimated 200,000 individuals who may be marginalised or need extra help submitting their application. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “EU citizens have contributed so much to this country and we want them all to stay. That’s why we have made the EU settlement scheme free and simple to use. It’s vital no one is left behind and we support vulnerable people who may have difficulties applying. This £9m of funding will help do that.” – Guardian

UK economy defies Brexit turmoil to beat expectations as growth holds firm

The UK economy defied the Brexit chaos and the eurozone’s woes to maintain steady growth in February. Growth in the three months to February held at 0.3pc, driven by the services sector brushing aside mounting Brexit uncertainty. Economists had feared that the turmoil in Westminster would bring the economy to a standstill in February. Monthly GDP growth slowed from January’s two-year high to 0.2pc but beat expectations, boosted by rebounds in the construction and manufacturing sectors. The steady growth in February is a “reassuring reading” that indicates that the “economy weathered the Brexit chaos” up until February at least, said Capital Economics economist Ruth Gregory. She warned that growth could be limited during the rest of 2019 “if the EU tonight grants a long delay to Brexit”. – Telegraph (£)

Charlotte Gill: If only every MP fought for Britain like Mark Francois, we would be in a much better place

Yesterday, something extraordinary happened in the Brexit saga. Mark Francois, vice-chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), entered the public’s consciousness for the first time as a potential leader for sorting out the mess. While Theresa May danced around Merkel and Macron, begging for their mercy, no one was paying attention, as they were too transfixed by his elaborate metaphors. “We will become a Trojan horse within the EU”, he said in a series of warnings. It was a terrible analogy, as anyone well-versed in Greek mythology will know, begging all sorts of questions – such as, who’s Helen of Troy, where’s Cassandra, and are we comfortable to be compared to a flammable wooden structure? But even so, it Francois’s fighting spirit that was so refreshing in this insipid age. – Charlotte Gill for the Telegraph (£)

John Redwood: Who now doubts the power of the EU?

Before the referendum pro Remain commentators and MPs delighted in telling us we were a free and independent country whilst still in the EU. They explained that the EU did not have much power over us, just a few necessary details to allow trade to take place. Since we voted to leave some of these same people have explained how crucial EU laws and controls are, and how they penetrate most features of our public life and law codes. They now claim the control is so wide ranging we cannot live successfully without it. The supremacy of EU law over domestic law has been at the centre of recent disputes over the matter of delaying our exit. The Prime Minister requested a delay of Brussels at the last Council. She wanted to leave on 30 June. The EU Council instead gave her the ultimatum  of a delay until April 12th, unless she could carry the Withdrawal Agreement which could hold up our departure until May 22nd. These different delays had not been agreed by Parliament or even explained to Parliament. As soon as the PM said Yes to the Council we were told they were good EU law which trumped all that Parliament had enacted to get us out on 29 March. After a legal wrangle the government decided to put it beyond doubt by legislating in the UK as well, whilst claiming the supremacy of EU law. – John Redwood MP for Comment Central

Michael Deacon: Tory MPs don’t just look exhausted. They look as if they’ve given up

PMQs was weird. Eerie, even. Many Tory MPs were absent, and most of those who’d turned up seemed barely to be there. They didn’t cheer, didn’t jeer, didn’t heckle. Instead, they simply sat staring into space, their eyes glazed, their faces drained. For those of us in the gallery, it was like peering at rows of dead fish on a slab. Of course, the past few weeks have been tiring and stressful. But the Tories looked more than exhausted. They looked defeated. Only three of them even tried to ask about Brexit. Craig Tracey (Con, N Warwickshire) begged Theresa May to go for a no-deal. “We should grab that opportunity,” he croaked, “and believe in the ability of the British people, and a Conservative Government, to make a success of it.” His colleagues mustered a few weary bleats of agreement. I suppose their half-heartedness was understandable. Believing in the ability of the British people was one thing. But the ability of a Conservative Government? This Conservative Government? – Michael Deacon for the Telegraph (£)

Julian Jessop: No Deal has its risks, but the IMF’s warning is overblown

The IMF is the latest official body to predict economic catastrophe – or at least a prolonged recession – if the UK leaves the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and is simply treated like any other third country (‘no deal’). To be fair, the analysis presented in the IMF’s April World Economic Outlook is a reasonable piece of work and a relatively good example of its kind. Nonetheless, the conclusions are still far too pessimistic. In short, economists at the IMF have modelled two no-deal scenarios, A and B, with B assuming significant disruption at borders and a severe tightening in financial conditions. In the worst case, the level of GDP is around 3.5 per cent lower than otherwise within a couple of years. Given the anaemic growth rates in the baseline, this implies full-year recessions in both 2019 and 2020. – Julian Jessop for CapX

Peter Foster: Brexit is far from over – this fudged EU compromise is worst of all worlds

For much of the Brexit negotiations the EU has maintained a united front and made quick-sharp decisions about how to handle the UK’s requests – but on Wednesday night that intra-EU discipline finally broke down. What emerged from six hours of talks in Brussels was an ugly duckling compromise driven as much by the need to resolve Franco-German differences as it was anything to do with addressing the merits of Theresa May’s request for an extension to Article 50 to June 30. The eventual outcome of an extension to October 31 – with a soft review at the June European Council summit – is now arguably the worst of all worlds. It is too long to avoid the UK taking part in European Elections in May 23-26, and sets up the self-evidently pointless prospect of the UK holding polls to elect 73 MEPs who will only sit for a matter of weeks before the UK leaves, after a well-paid summer holiday. – Peter Foster for the Telegraph (£)

Andrew Lilico: Grovelling Britain has officially surrendered to a triumphant EU

So now, the begging. Theresa May has gone off to Brussels to say that Britain is very sorry, we know we have many faults and the EU has been quite right to be strict with us, but could we please stay? We’ll be good, honest we will! You’ll see! Apparently the French are sceptical and Emmanuel Macron is to tell us that we’ll only be allowed to stay if we promise to be a good little country, sitting still and being quiet, not making any fuss about the EU’s Budget or any other plans. I’m not sure what acts of self-mortification will be required of the British delegation to prove our good intentions. When Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV sought reconciliation with the Pope in 1077, he walked barefoot wearing a hair shirt, then waited for three days by the gate of Canossa Castle, on his knees, fasting, while a blizzard raged. May’s team might think that it is a small price to pay for the EU’s munificence in granting the UK the privilege — nay, honour — of being permitted a few more months (a few more weeks, just a few more days, “Mercy! Mercy!”, we cry!) within the EU’s gracious embrace. – Andrew Lilico for the Telegraph (£)

Telegraph: Theresa May’s premiership is defined by missed deadlines and broken promises

On the verge of what is, by any measure, a pivotal moment in recent British history, surely tomorrow’s departure of the UK from the European Union should have dominated Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons. Yet it was not mentioned at all in exchanges between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Instead, the two leaders clashed over their parties’ records in local government ahead of elections next month. If evidence were needed that the latest Brexit deadline was a sham, then here it was. The European Union had set April 12 as the new date for the UK to leave after the Article 50 process, which ended on March 29, was extended. This was done ostensibly to allow Mrs May a final chance to secure Parliament’s backing for the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU last November. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Express: This paper will battle on for Brexit and freedom

It is strange to remember that some within the Government described the European Council president Donald Tusk as Britain’s friend in the aftermath of the historic 2016 referendum. After three hard years of Brexit that suggestion has been proven to be completely wrong. In truth the UK has no friends among the hierarchy of the EU and never did because it has always stood in the way of a United States of Europe. Mr Tusk is a prominent part of that machine and has been at the forefront of trying to punish and humiliate Britain. How can we forget the way the self–confessed former football hooligan set up our Prime Minister in a rather crude Instagram joke with slices of cake. But yesterday it was clear that he has been actively working with Remainers to force Britain to stay in the EU. – Express editorial

Brexit in Brief

  • Queen’s Speech would expose paucity of PM’s policy agenda – The Times (£)
  • Stockpiles of anti-Brexit economic news running low – Iain Martin for Reaction
  • Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have been undone by Brexit – Nick Cohen for The Spectator