UK ‘must explain’ reason for Brexit delay request , warns French finance minister

Donohoe says Republic ‘will not be a block on such an extension’

The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (right), with his French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire at Government Buildings. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (right), with his French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire at Government Buildings. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The UK must explain why it wants to delay Brexit if it applies for an extension to the ‘Article 50’ exit process, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has said.

Mr Le Maire was reacting to Theresa May’s promise to MPs today to hold a vote on delaying the UK’s departure from the EU if they reject her proposed divorce deal and rule out a no-deal Brexit next month.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29th but can extend the date if there is unanimous agreement amongst the remaining 27 EU member states.

“If there is a call for an extension of Article 50, we have just to understand what for and once again it is up to the British government to explain to us, to the member states of the EU, an extension of Article 50,” Mr Le Maire told reporters on a visit to Dublin after meeting Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Donohoe, speaking alongside his French counterpart outside Government Buildings, said that it was “an important development” that some thinking around a potential extension “has been highlighted to date.”

While he said that the Government has said it “would not be a block on such an extension being granted,” Dublin would need to “jointly take stock” and engage with EU member states on “where the situation stands.”

Mr Le Maire said he would “not comment on every new plan - plan A, plan B, plan C - coming from London” and that “a fair and good agreement” had been negotiated by the EU.

“It is then up to the British government to assess the best way of adopting that agreement,” he said.

The British prime minister set out a sequence of House of Commons votes for next month, starting with a second “meaningful vote” on her proposed divorce agreement negotiated with the EU.

Mrs May said there would only be a “short, limited extension” - no later than the end of June - if MPs rejected her deal and a no-deal exit next but warned that it would create “a much sharper cliff edge.”

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