EU gives Britain six-months’ grace for Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May
Image: Supplied

European leaders agreed with Britain on Thursday to delay Brexit by up to six months, saving the continent from what could have been a chaotic nodeal split at midnight on Friday.

The deal, struck in latenight talks in Brussels, means if London remains in the EU after May 22, British voters will have to take part in European elections – or crash out on June 1.

UK prime minister Theresa May said she would keep working to get her withdrawal agreement approved by parliament to ensure an orderly split, saying her goal was to leave as soon as possible.

The other 27 EU leaders met without May over dinner to thrash out what European Council president Donald Tusk called a flexible extension until October 31.

May later returned to agree to the new deadline, which British newspapers were quick to note falls on Halloween.

She and her officials were due to meet for further talks with the main opposition Labour party to try find a way through the political deadlock.

Without a postponement, Britain would have ended its 46-year membership of the EU at midnight with no deal, risking economic chaos on both sides of the channel.

Tusk had proposed a year delay, but said: “It’s still enough to find the best possible solution. Do not waste this time.”

He suggested May’s government had time to ratify the November deal agreed with EU leaders, or to stop Brexit. –