Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen was positive about the EU granting a short extension to the British government to facilitate an orderly Brexit, but said British PM Theresa May needed strong reasons for her requested delay.
Rasmussen made his comments before leaving for Brussels on Thursday night, where leaders of EU countries met to discuss May’s request for an extension to Article 50, the official notice of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the union.
After a marathon session of talks in Brussels late on Thursday, the EU’s leaders eventually rejected the delay requested by May and instead gave two new, shorter deadlines, extending the date of Brexit beyond next Friday, March 29th.
Under the EU agreement, the UK will now stay a member state until April 12th if May’s withdrawal agreement is rejected by the British parliament at the third time of asking, after it was already twice voted down.
The UK government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period, provided it can both “indicate a way forward” and agree to hold European elections, the EU said. A European source told news agency AFP that the offer means Britain would have to decide by April 11th whether to leave with no deal or seek another delay.
In the unlikely event that May does win the support of parliament next week, the UK will stay a member state until May 22nd, allowing time for necessary withdrawal legislation to be passed.
Speaking at Aalborg airport before leaving for Brussels on Thursday, Rasmussen called for pragmatism.
“My approach is to be pragmatic. If a short delay can result in this ending well, I have a positive view of it. But we have not been given an answer [by May, ed.] on what this (extension) is for,” the PM said to Ritzau.
“We need to hear what the plan is for this delay. It is not a solution, but it is a method by which a solution might be found,” he added.
But May appears to have been unable to convince Rasmussen and the EU’s other leaders, as well as European council president Donald Tusk and European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, that she has a clear plan of action should parliament continue to reject her deal.
According to Reuters news agency, Emmanuel Macron told fellow EU leaders that May only has a five percent chance of winning the vote next week, after hearing the prime minister’s speech on Thursday.