October deadline paves way for de facto Brexit ‘plebiscite’ – David Davis
Irish, EU and UK politicians react to news that Brexit will be delayed until Halloween
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reacts as he leaves after an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels. Photograph: Eva Plevier/Reuters
British prime minister Theresa May has accepted an offer from leaders of the remaining 27 EU countries to delay Brexit to October 31st.
Here is how figures in the Irish Government, EU, UK and abroad are reacting to the Halloween extension.
Former UK Brexit secretary David Davis said extending the Brexit deadline paves the way to a European election which will be a de facto “plebiscite” on Brexit. “Unless the prime minister comes back with something different to put to the House it is difficult to see how she is going to get the DUP to vote for [her] deal or indeed some of the Conservative party to vote for it too,” he said. Without agreement on the deal, the UK will have to take part in the European elections, which will “become a plebiscite on Brexit and I suspect you will see a very successful rise of the Brexit movement, the Nigel Farage thing,” he told BBC Radio 4.
Asked if he thought the extension was long enough, he said: “I really hope so. The European Union is imperfect, we took several hours here to make a decision, there were different views, we had to bounce things around for five or six hours this evening but we did make a decision.
“It’s three years since the referendum now and we really think it’s time for the United Kingdom to make a decision, so we’re giving them a very long period of time now to make a decision.”
Mr Varadkar said there was “genuine concern” about the UK remaining in the EU for an extended period of time while it intends to leave in case it disrupts EU business.
“Quite frankly that is already the case, with Ukip and (Nigel) Farage,” he added.
Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee said the extension to October 31st gave London three choices, including “possibly revoking article 50 or some form of other referendum”, she said.
The other two choices include a “no deal” crash out of the bloc - “which we hope won’t be the case” - as well as ratifying the existing withdrawal agreement, which will not be reopened, Ms McEntee said.
There would be room to alter the political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, pending the outcome of talks between British prime minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “This essentially gives a little more time,” she said.
“The EU are very clear we are not trying to keep the UK in the European Union - at the same time we are not going to force them out and we are not going to force a no deal.”
Ms McEntee said conversations went on for so long into the night over the issue of “sincere co-operation” in the event the UK takes part in May’s European elections and returns MEPs who will have a say in future Brussels decision-making.
“Member states wanted the prime minister to agree they would not look to reopen the withdrawal agreement, but also that they comply with their rights and obligations, as with any member state,” Ms McEntee told RTÉ radio.
While the UK would “still be around the table” in such circumstances “there would possibly be an option for discussions between the 27 member states where longer term discussions were being made.”
Vice-president of the European Parliament Maireád McGuinness said EU leaders were focused on bringing Brexit to a conclusion. “We (in Europe) do need to move away from Brexit talk, because it’s morning, noon and night,” she told BBC News. “Now it is a big issue, it’s got to be dealt with, but we’ve got other things that are equally serious and that need to be dealt with.”
French president Emmanuel Macron said he had pushed against a long extension “for the collective good”.
“It is true that the majority was more in favour of a very long extension,” he said. “But it was not logical in my view, and above all, it was neither good for us, nor for the British people.”
He added: “I think we delivered the best possible compromise. First because it was the one to preserve the unity of the 27.
“Second because we addressed the request from the UK to get more time to deliver a deal on the basis of the withdrawal agreement negotiated a few months ago.
“And third because thanks to this agreement we preserve the well-functioning of the European Union.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel, who backed a longer extension, said she supported the effort to secure an orderly Brexit.
She said: “In the face of the many problems the world is facing today, it means a lot to us.
“And we talked about this tonight that we, as Europeans, send out a signal that even if such a difficult discussion comes up, we are nevertheless capable of ensuring that this withdrawal is an orderly one.”
She added: “In my eyes it’s important now that the European Union does not exert pressure here on Great Britain. We have very clear demands and expectations.
“We have to have ways and means to ensure that the withdrawal agreement is adhered to. It’s not important whether it’s that date or another one.”
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez warned that a no-deal Brexit was not off the table.
He tweeted: “#EUCO does not want a disorderly exit, but it is true that it is not ruled out.
“The ball is now in the court of the British parliament.”
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the delay gave time to overcome the “crisis” in the Commons.
“We moved away the risk of no-deal Brexit for a several months,” he tweeted.
“It gives a chance to overcome the ratification crisis in UK. It is now up to UK to take this opportunity.”
Lars Lokke Rasmussen
Lars Lokke Rasmussen, prime minister of Denmark, said it was down to the UK to find solutions to the Brexit impasse.
He tweeted: “One more chance for the UK. Managed to avoid a #NoDealBrexit tonight. New deadline 31.10. Up to the UK to find solutions.”
Finnish prime minister Juha Sipila tweeted: “This mess has been going on for three years. Lets hope prime minister May and the opposition will find consensus.”
Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat said the October 31st deadline was “sensible”.
He tweeted: “A #Brexit extension until 31 October is sensible since it gives time to UK to finally choose its way. The review in June will allow #EUCO to take stock of the situation.”
US president Donald Trump invoked America’s trading relationship with the EU in his assessment.
He tweeted: “Too bad that the European Union is being so tough on the United Kingdom and Brexit. The EU is likewise a brutal trading partner with the United States, which will change.
“Sometimes in life you have to let people breathe before it all comes back to bite you!”– Additional reporting PA