Theresa May tells MPs Brexit frustration is shared by EU after leaders agree to extension

Theresa May told MPs the frustration felt by the Commons is shared by the EU after leaders agreed to push back the Brexit deadline to Halloween.

The Prime Minister addressed the House of Commons, after the EU 27 agreed to a second Brexit extension until October 31 during late-night talks in Brussels.

The UK was originally meant to leave the union on March 31, but after MPs rejected Mrs May's withdrawal agreement the deadline was pushed back to April 12.

The new deadline means the UK avoids leaving the EU without a deal on Friday.

Theresa May addressed MPs on the Brexit extension granted by EU leaders. Credit: PA

Mrs May told the Commons: "The discussions at the council were difficult and unsurprisingly many of our European partners share the deep frustration that I know so many of us feel in this House over the current impasse."

The prime minister continued: "My priority is to deliver Brexit and to do so in an orderly way which does not disrupt people's lives."

She told MPs it was their "national duty" to agree a Brexit deal.

  • ITV News' Europe Editor James Mates speaks from Brussels after the EU Summit:

The prime minister said if parliament passes a deal by May 22, the UK would not have to take part in the EU elections.

If the UK fails to take part in elections to the European Parliament on May 23-26, it will automatically leave without a deal on June 1.

Responding to the prime minister, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The second extension in the space of a fortnight represents not only a diplomatic failure, but it is another milestone in the Government's mishandling of the entire Brexit process."

Jeremy Corbyn said if the Government did not compromise then all options should remain on the table. Credit: PA

Mrs May said the "choices we face are stark" but wants to "press on to reach a consensus."

The prime minister said: "This is not the normal way of British politics - and it is uncomfortable for many in both the Government and opposition parties.

"Reaching an agreement will not be easy, because to be successful it will require both sides to make compromises."

If a cross-party agreement could not be reached, the Government will put alternatives to MPs in a series of votes and would abide by the result, Mrs May said.

The Labour leader said his party will "continue to engage constructively in talks", but if the Government did not compromise then "we believe all options should remain on the table, including the option of a public vote".

A No 10 source said they would continue to pursue the dialogue as long as they believed it was making progress, but added: "Bluntly, we won't continue to talk for the sake of it."

"As I have made clear before, the Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House. But to make this process work, the opposition would need to agree to this too," she said.

Following her Commons statement, Mrs May and Mr Corbyn held a "short meeting" at Westminster when they agreed to continue the talks process, Labour said.

  • ITV News' Political Editor Robert Peston gives the reaction from Westminster:

Mrs May faced called by MPs in the Commons to consider a second referendum.

The prime minister was pushed by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford if a confirmatory vote had been offered during compromise talks with Labour.

Mrs May replied: "The Government has not offered a second referendum. Our position on that issue has not changed."

But there were worries a second vote could cause further division, instead of helping to bring the country together.

The prime minister faced criticism from our own party and even calls to quit following her "abject surrender" in Brussels to extend the Brexit process.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Bill Cash said: "Does the Prime Minister appreciate the anger that her abject surrender last night has generated across the country, having broken promises 100 times not to extend the time?"

Sir Bill warned that the Withdrawal Agreement "undermines our democracy" and the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, among other things, adding: "Will she resign?"

Mrs May replied: "I think you know the answer to that."

Tory former minister Mark Francois also accused the PM of "sheer obstinacy" by agreeing to another extension of Article 50 to try to get her Withdrawal Agreement passed after several failures.

Theresa May had to wait while EU leaders agreed to the Brexit extension. Credit: AP

ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt travelled to Skegness, a town which overwhelmingly voted in to leave the EU - more than anywhere else in the country.

A business owner said he wanted to leave the EU before the UK had to take part in the European elections.

"Let's get out, let's get certain things sorted out. Let's get out to prepare [for a no deal], you can't keep putting it off with people, you can't run a business like that," he said.

What happened in Brussels?

The leaders of the EU27 agreed to a further Brexit extension until October 31, but European Council President Donald Tusk did not rule out further extensions beyond October.

He said during the extension period the "course of action will be entirely in the UK's hands", warning the UK "please do not waste this time".

Mr Tusk sent a message to the UK: "This extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it's still enough to find the best possible solution."

He added the UK could rethink its strategy or choose "to cancel Brexit altogether."

Under the terms of the agreement, the UK can leave at any time if the Withdrawal Agreement reached last November is ratified by the Westminster Parliament.

If the UK does not take part in the EU elections, then we will leave the EU without a deal on June 1.

A review will take place on June 20 at a EU council summit, but Mr Tusk said this was an opportunity for "taking stock" and not for any new negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.