Macron objections delay efforts to secure UK Brexit extension
French government says UK should examine deal ‘as quickly as possible’
French president Emmanuel Macron is unwilling to wave through a three-month Brexit extension for the UK, sources in Brussels and Dublin said. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Objections by French president Emmanuel Macron have delayed efforts by Donald Tusk, who heads the European Council of European Union leaders, to secure agreement on a three-month Brexit extension for the UK.
Mr Tusk spoke to EU leaders in recent days – including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday – in an effort to secure unanimous agreement to grant the UK an extension until January 31st.
However, sources in Brussels and Dublin say Mr Macron is unwilling to wave through the extension.
EU ambassadors met last night in Brussels but did not agree to the UK’s request. It is believed that the French government does not favour a three-month extension unless the UK commits to an election or a second referendum. However, it would be willing to agree a short extension of a few weeks to enable the British parliament to complete ratification of the treaty.
In a statement to The Irish Times, the Elysée Palace said the British parliament “should examine the withdrawal agreement as quickly as possible”.
“We will see at the end of the week if a purely technical extension of a few days is necessary, to complete this parliamentary procedure,” it said. “Apart from these circumstances, an extension that is intended to gain time or to rediscuss the accord is excluded. We concluded an agreement and now it must be carried out without delay.”
Other EU states, including Ireland, are worried that a short extension could result in the UK crashing out without a deal. In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar said he favoured a long extension that would also allow the UK to leave as soon as the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
If there is no agreement in the coming days among EU leaders, they are likely to be summoned to Brussels for an emergency summit next week. Mr Varadkar said yesterday that his “bags are . . . packed” for such a gathering.