Malta agrees with granting the UK Brexit extension
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Malta agrees with granting the UK Brexit extension

EU leaders want clarity before considering delay

Joseph Muscat with Theresa May. Photo: AFP

Joseph Muscat with Theresa May. Photo: AFP

Malta would agree to the UK’s request for a Brexit extension, providing the request was justified and would help lead to an orderly exit, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Friday. 

“The ball is in the UK’s court after its Parliament voted against the present deal with the EU. It also voted against leaving the EU without a deal. So the current situation means the UK needs to either accept the deal, or not exit the EU at all”, the Prime Minister said in a statement.

He said the European Union would not change its position because it would not compromise over the principles it was built upon: “It is not a case of stubbornness by the EU, but a case of being realistic.”

Dr Muscat explained that there were a number of challenges for the UK if given an extension.

“Primarily, the EU treaties are clear: the UK will be expected to organise the European Parliament elections in May, even though these will not have any relevance in the long-term. It is also clear that the UK cannot have a veto on an EU budget that it will not be part of.”

EU leaders on Friday called for clarity from Britain before considering any delay to Brexit after a series of chaotic votes by MPs just two weeks before the deeply divided country is due to leave the bloc.

Quitting the EU after 46 years on March 29 remains the legal default unless EU leaders unanimously grant Britain an extension, with the issue likely to dominate a March 21-22 EU summit in Brussels.

The length of any possible delay will depend on the outcome of another parliamentary vote on the twice massively rejected Brexit deal struck by Ms May with EU leaders.

The government said it would ask for a "technical" delay until June 30 to pass necessary legislation if MPs finally approve the deal next week.

If MPs vote against it for a third time, the government has warned it will be forced to seek a much longer delay.

"It is very clear that the next steps, the next proposal on how to move forward must come from Britain," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin on Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron's office said that if the current deal is rejected again "a clear and new alternative plan" must be presented or else Britain would have to leave the EU with no agreement.

The British government is hoping that talk of a long delay to Brexit will persuade hardliners in May's own Conservative Party and its ally, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to get behind her deal.

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