The EU is taking back control and drawing up new red lines

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

It is perhaps ironic that the EU will now decide how long the UK remains a member state.

Brussels will be in the driving seat if MPs want to delay Brexit.

On Wednesday, Parliament is expected to vote against ‘No Deal’.

If MPs then vote to delay the date of Brexit beyond March 29, the Government will have to go, cap in hand, to the EU and ask for more time.

In coordinated statements sent out by EU leaders immediately after the defeat in the Commons on Tuesday they made it clear there will be no more negotiation.

"If there is a solution to the current impasse it can only be found in London," said the spokesman for Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council.

Then the EU leaders, in their statements, started to draw up the delay red lines.

Donald Tusk insists Britain must find solutions to the impasse. Credit: PA

"Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 (27 EU nations) will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration. The smooth functioning of the EU institutions will need to be ensured," they said.

The EU is not going to grant an extension just to allow more political thrashing about in the Commons.

There must be a reason and there must be a duration.

The leaders insist the extension must not interfere with the "smooth functioning of the EU institutions".

That is a clear hint that the EU would only grant an extension if it doesn’t clash with the European Parliament elections.

One diplomat told me that until now the Brexit negotiations have been ‘quarantined’, separate from the day-to-day business of the the EU.

Now, they thought, Brexit has started to ‘pollute’ the European project and policies.

European Parliament key dates:

  • May 23-26: European Parliament Election

  • July 2019: New MEPS take their seats

  • Autumn 2019: The new European Commission faces appointment hearings in the European Parliament

If the extension overlaps those dates, expect legal challenges from pro-Brexit and Remain groups.

The UK could be taken to court by those who would argue that their rights to vote or stand have been denied.

If the UK is granted an extension, and it will be up to the EU to decide unanimously, then it will be a one-off.

There will be no delay added to delay.

The EU’s new red lines make that clear.