President of the European Council Donald Tusk has urged the UK not to “waste time” as the Brexit negotiation period was once again extended last night. But Easter means Easter for parliamentarians who head off for a two-week recess to “reflect on the issues”.
For anyone who has been keeping up with Parliament in the past few months, it’s difficult to imagine MPs doing anything but waste time. It’s been almost three years since Prime Minister David Cameron gambled, lost and resigned following the Brexit referendum; three years of back-and-forth, blame and infighting has left the British public disillusioned, disappointed and deeply frustrated at our inability to secure a favourable deal and leave on time.
Less than 48 hours before the UK was scheduled to leave the EU on the extended date of April 12th, Theresa May’s plans to delay Brexit until June 30th were dubbed “unrealistic” by the EU and scrapped in favour of a longer extension – one that sees us sitting in the EU’s departure lounge until October 31st. While she sought to secure an extension, receiving this later date could be seen as another personal defeat for the prime minister, whose withdrawal agreement has already been voted down three times by MPs.
Some EU leaders – notably the French President Emmanuel Macron made their opinion clear that the six-month extension was a longer delay than the UK deserved.
“We have a European Renaissance to lead,” he wrote in a tweet and Brexit, he continued, was getting in the way. Macron’s position prior to the meeting was that any extension beyond June 30th would be intolerable to France, even if that meant a no-deal scenario – a view which ironically sees Macron siding with hard Brexiteers.
Met with a sigh of relief from those fearing the cliff-edge divorce of a no-deal and intense frustration from the majority of the country who expected to leave at the end of March, the prime minister returned from her Brussels all-nighter with news that next Halloween will either be a trick or treat depending on the terms of our exit. Nevertheless, Theresa May continues to hold out hope that her deal will be passed before May 22nd. If not, the UK will have to hold European Parliament elections in May or face leaving on 1 June without a deal. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, one that Theresa May said she “profoundly regrets.”
Although the intense pressure of the last few weeks may have subsided for the time being, the road ahead is still paved with uncertainty as the proverbial can is kicked down the road for another six months. During this time, it’s still not unlikely that we will see attempts to topple Theresa May, a potential general election or even a second Brexit referendum. If Mrs May manages to get her divorce deal ratified by parliament before then, we may leave well before Halloween – of course, if the past few months are anything to go by, the odds of this happening are slim.