BREXIT FLEXTENSION: EU agrees to delay Brexit until January 31

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European Council president Donald Tusk with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

The EU has agreed a three-month Brexit ‘flextension’ until January 31st 2020, which gives the UK the option of leaving before then if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified

The European Union on Monday agreed to give the United Kingdom a Brexit extension until January 31, European Council President Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter.

Though the decision still has to be formally confirmed by letter, the former Polish prime minister tweeted that the 27 member states were in agreement. “The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a #Brexit #flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.”

The so-called ‘flextension’ is shorthand for flexible extension.

Details have not been officially confirmed, but are thought to include the following:

The EU is not open to renegotiating the current withdrawal agreement in place, agreed by Boris Johnson and the bloc earlier this month.
If British MPs approve the deal sooner, the UK could leave the bloc before the end of January.

Ambassadors took the decision in just 15 minutes on Monday morning after France signaled overnight it was removing its objection to an extension. The change in position happened over the weekend after French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone conversation with Johnson on Sunday afternoon and after further conversations between the EU27 and the U.K., according to an official close to the French president.

All the legal documents setting out the terms of the extension were approved without amendment by the ambassadors. They state that the extension is conditional on the U.K. not acting to “jeopardise” the EU’s objectives and decision-making process. It also states that the extension cannot be used for further negotiations on the Brexit deal — although the terms of a previous extension contained an identical “no renegotiation” clause yet the EU allowed the Withdrawal Agreement to be reopened and substantial changes were made.

Flextension with an end date January 31
Pros: This would involve setting a fixed date, at any point up to December 31, 2020, but allowing the U.K. to leave whenever it is ready.

Some call this the “have your cake and eat it” solution, yet it could provide the best of all worlds. Some diplomats are sceptical because they see it mainly as a British idea. “They are flying a kite,” as one diplomat put it.

Other EU officials take a different view and point out the current October 31 deadline is already a kind of “flextension.” EU leaders wrote when it was agreed that “if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both parties before this date, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month.”

The uncertainty would continue and the U.K. However the UK would retain near total control of events.Formal approval of the extension is anticipated in the next 48 hours.
Member states are expected to demand Britain nominates an EU commissioner.

Tusk’s social media post came as EU diplomats met in Brussels. Upon leaving the discussions, which lasted for 30 minutes, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “it was a very short and efficient and constructive meeting and I am happy the decision has been taken.”

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