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Why the EU now looks more likely to grant a Brexit extension, writes James Mates

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Wednesday that sent two clear messages on Brexit.

  • They stand resolutely behind Dublin and the backstop. Or if not the backstop something with a different name (a safety net perhaps) that does the same job in avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
  • They really don’t want Boris Johnson to be allowed to force a no-deal Brexit.
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier delivers a speech in EU parliament. Credit: AP

Up until now, talk of a new extension to the October 31 deadline has been hedged with many conditions.

In the Parliament’s view, not any more.

Yes, they would still like there to be a purpose to an extension, such as holding a General Election or another referendum.

Now they say that simply avoiding a no-deal Brexit would be reason enough for another delay.

The Parliament, of course, does not get to make the decision - that is reserved to the 27 heads of State or Government in the European Council.

But their voice is significant, not least because most European leaders cannot afford to simply ignore the views of their MEPs.

Michele Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker. Credit: PA

So a further extension, IF a British Government asks for it, now looks even more likely.

But there is also talk of a deadline now being set for Boris Johnson finally to table some detailed proposals on how he plans to replace the backstop.

President Macron of France, in particular, is keen not to allow London’s current strategy of vague talk but nothing concrete on paper to go on indefinitely.

Michel Barnier too is beginning to wonder if he is being played, suggesting today that the British may be involved in a ‘pretend negotiation’.

The original 30 day target set by Germany’s Angela Merkel is almost up.

A harder deadline may soon be imposed.