, 16 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
EU has almost given up trying to understand what’s going on in UK.
Dutch PM Rutte compares Theresa May to Monty Python knight whose limbs get cut off in a duel but insists the fight was a draw. Elsewhere in EU, mood is darker esp with the prospect of a lengthy #Brexit delay 1
With UK politics mired in confusion, only thing EU can control this week is choreography at EU leaders’ summit, starting Thurs. Donald Tusk, EU Council president is visiting capitals to try to co-ordinate single EU response if/when Theresa May asks for article 50 extension 2
Today Tusk is in Berlin and Paris – the EU superpowers. But when it comes to delaying Brexit, any one of the EU’s 27 leaders has a veto. The decision must be unanimous 3
This conjures up horror visions in EU leaders’ minds over being held to ransom by one of their ranks keen to use this leverage over Brexit to win a concession from Brussels over a separate issue. Remember 2015 when they were finalising their EU reform offer to David Cameron? 4
Italian + Greek PMs hijacked proceedings - demanding more EU solidarity over migration crisis and Greek debt crisis – before they would sign up to the EU position on David Cameron’s reform request. Donald Tusk is keen to avoid similar dramas at EU leaders Brexit meet on Thurs 5
As for granting an extension: a short extension to allow the UK to ratify the agreement would be a no brainer for the EU, but if parliament refuses to approve the deal, the idea of a longer extension is unappealing to many EU leaders 6
They are giving long, hard thought to costs to the EU of delayed Brexit. The effect of uncertainty on business, investments and citizens rights. Plus idea of recalcitrant UK still EU-midst, influencing next EU budget and helping choose next presidents of EU council + commission 7
NB Extending UK leaving process = extending UK membership of EU. Brussels has no legal means (if it wanted to) of stopping the UK being part decision-making on the EU's future while still in the club 8
Another important NB: As long as the UK remains an EU member - as long as Brexit is delayed - there can be no negotiations on the future UK-EU trade relationship. Under EU law, these talks can only start once the UK is out of the club 9
And what about European parliamentary elections in late May? There are internal EU disagreements about by which exact date/whether UK would have to field new MEPs BUT EU leaders united in viewing prospect of UK taking part in those elex as a cross between a nightmare + a farce 10
I see EU diplomats close to Brexit process, edging ever-closer to ALMOST preferring costs of no deal Brexit (which they believe their countries are increasingly prepared for) to opening the door to “prolonging the Brexit agony” as one EU diplomat put it to me 11
Final decision on Brexit extension viewed as so political it's a decision for the 'top cats' - for EU leaders to decide at their summit on Thurs 12
Irritated, frustrated and fatigued as EU leaders are with Brexit, it's still likely they will end up granting an extension - even a long one - to try to avoid a no deal Brexit and the political blame game that would inevitably follow 13
There are arguments to grant a long extension straight away to a) put pressure on MPs who hate the idea to vote for PMs Brexit deal b) avoid the distracting drama of rolling 3 month extensions with the ever-present threat of no-deal 14
EU leaders' decision on extension is of course influenced by what happens in Westminster in coming days. There are some in EU who say they may have to call an emergency EU summit as late as 28 March (though NO appetite for that) 15
By law whatever extension the EU may grant, it can't be open-ended - there has to be a fixed end date (though could theoretically be renewed) - bc article 50 process can only be used for the leaving process - not for what could be permanent state between EU + departing member 16
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