EU Overwhelmingly Backs Brexit Delay if UK Requests One

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — European Parliament lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of another Brexit delay if Britain requests one and certain conditions are met, after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the chamber that a no-deal scenario remains “very real.”

After a three-hour debate, the lawmakers adopted a nonbinding resolution supporting another extension to the Brexit deadline. Lawmakers voted 544-126 with 38 abstentions in Strasbourg.

Despite claims from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the U.K. will leave on the scheduled Oct. 31 date with or without a withdrawal agreement, EU leaders are expected to discuss the possibility of another postponement at a two-day summit in Brussels next month if no progress toward a deal has been made by then.

Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc has already been delayed twice.

EU lawmakers put conditions in the resolution, saying they would support an extension only if it was justified by a specific purpose such as “avoiding a no-deal departure, holding general elections or a referendum, revoking Article 50 (the procedure that triggered the Brexit process), or approving the (current) withdrawal agreement.”

Speaking at the parliament before the vote, Juncker, who met with Johnson on Monday, said a no-deal Brexit “might be the choice of the U.K., but it will never be ours.”

The main sticking point over a Brexit deal is the Irish border backstop, which would require Britain to respect EU trade and customs rules in order to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland until a better solution is found.

In their resolution, EU lawmakers also pledged to reject any deal without a backstop and insisted Britain will be “solely responsible for a no-deal departure.” The European Parliament must endorse any Brexit deal for it to be implemented.

“I have no sentimental attachment to the backstop,” Juncker said, adding, however, that he remains committed to the purpose it serves, which is to prevent border structures that could be detrimental to peace in Northern Ireland.

“That is why I called on the British prime minister to come forward with concrete proposals, operational and in writing on all alternatives that would allow us to reach these objectives,” Juncker said.

EU leaders have made clear that any amendment to the current proposed divorce deal should preserve the bloc’s single market and uphold the Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Despite his declaration that Britain will leave on Oct. 31 “do or die,” Johnson insists he can strike a revised divorce deal with the bloc in time for an orderly departure. European leaders are skeptical of that declaration.

“I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage,” Juncker said. “As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you — while looking you straight in the eye — that progress is being made.”

%d bloggers like this: