Brexit extension length let slip by Verhofstadt? MEP accidentally makes big admission

Boris Johnson secured a majority in the House of Commons on his Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Tuesday, but just minutes later suffered a huge blow as MPs refused to back his accelerated timetabling plans to try to secure Brexit by October 31. Following the result of the vote, the Prime Minister said he had no option but to put his Brexit legislation on hold, and that he would “speak with member states”. And, on Tuesday evening, after the votes, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said he “will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension”.

But, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, may have already let slip how long an extension the UK will be offered from the EU.

During an unprovoked online attack at Nigel Farage, Mr Verhofstadt mocked the idea of being stuck with the Brexit Party leader on the continent for an extended length of time.

However, in his brutal attack, Mr Verhofstadt hinted there would be another “three weeks” of listening to Mr Farage.

He wrote on Twitter: “You’re all thinking: another extension. I am thinking: another three weeks listening to Farage”.

It comes as European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday evening he would “recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension”.

Guy Verhofstadt and Boris Johnson

Guy Verhofstadt hinted at how long the Brexit delay could be (Image: GETTY)

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk said he ‘will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension’ (Image: GETTY)

He wrote on Twitter: “Following PM @BorisJohnson’s decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension. For this I will propose a written procedure.”

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A letter was sent to the European Union from the Prime Minister on Saturday requesting an extension to the Brexit process in accordance with the so-called Benn Act, aimed at preventing a no deal exit.

EU ambassadors are expected to meet before the end of the week in order to discuss the next steps. “The European Commission takes note of tonight’s result and expects the UK Government to inform us about the next steps,” a spokeswoman said. “Donald Tusk is consulting leaders on the UK’s request for an extension until January 31, 2020.”

Despite the President of the European Council hinting at a three-month Brexit extension, a delay of just three weeks is not impossible.

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Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk Tweeted after the crunch Brexit votes (Image: TWITTER)

If the European Union were to grant the UK a flexible extension, Britain can leave the bloc earlier if a deal is ratified by both UK and European Parliaments.

This would require the Prime Minister to put forward a motion in the House of Commons of a new three-week timetable to sign off the deal, which was backed during its second reading on Tuesday night, and would need the EU Parliament to also debate and approve the deal in parallel.

But, the French minister for European affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, questioned earlier on Tuesday the justification for an additional delay to approve Britain’s withdrawal.

“We’re being asked for an extension: for what purpose? What is the justification?” de Montchalin told the French Senate, according to a transcript provided by her spokesman. “We know that time alone won’t provide the solution, but a political decision. We can’t extend this situation indefinitely.”

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Guy Verhofstadt

Guy Verhofstadt tweet attacking Nigel Farage (Image: TWITTER)

Brexit news

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was backed by MPs (Image: NC)

I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension

Donald Tusk

Diplomatic sources also hinted France would examine whether a “purely technical” delay of just a few days is necessary for the completion of Brexit.

It comes following a turbulent evening in the House of Commons after MPs refused to give the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans their full backing.

MPs voted through the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, in a historic move, by 329 votes to 299, majority 30, with 19 Labour MPs opting to side with the Government.

But, just minutes later, the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan was halted in its tracks, after Parliamentarians voted by 322 to 308 to reject Mr Johnson’s plan to take the legislation through the Commons in just three days.

Brexit timetable

MPs refused to back the Prime Minister’s fast-tracked Brexit timetable (Image: NC)

Following the votes, Mr Johnson said he had no option but to put his Brexit legislation on hold. Speaking in the Commons, the Prime Minister said: “I will speak to the member states but until then we will pause this legislation.”

He then paid tribute to MPs who had a change of heart and said: “We should not overlook the significance of this moment. I pay particular tribute to the members who have placed the national interest over every other consideration.”

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Mr Johnson remained upbeat but immediately warned Parliament that MPs had increased the possibility of a no deal Brexit, saying: “We face further uncertainty. The EU must now make up their mind on how to answer this Parliamentary delay.

“The Government must take the only responsible course of action which is to accelerate our preparations for a no deal outcome”.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson in the Commons after his Brexit plan was thwarted by MPs (Image: PARLIAMENTTV)

Speaking in the House of Commons shortly after MPs’ decision, Mr Corbyn said: “Tonight the House has refused to be bounced into debating a hugely significant piece of legislation in just two-days. The Prime Minister is the author of his own misfortune. So I make this offer to him tonight.

“Work with us, all of us, to agree to a reasonable timetable, and I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinise, and I hope to amend the detail of this Bill. That would be the sensible way forward. That is the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight.”

Nigel Farage responded to the events in the Commons by claiming the Prime Minister’s pledge of the UK leaving the EU at the end of October this year “do or die” was, in effect, “over”.

The Brexit Party leader wrote on Twitter: “Do or die is over, we have now moved on to dying in a ditch. We will not be leaving the EU on 31st October.”



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