Europe decides to watch and wait after yet another Brexit delay, writes Angus Walker

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Angus Walker explains how EU leaders could react to the letters and conflicting demands over a Brexit delay

Many top EU officials and European leaders were presumably watching through their hands as Parliament voted this afternoon.

Remember, just 48 hours ago, 27 EU states backed the new deal struck with Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister argues that there's no appetite for delay in the UK.

There's also little appetite for delay in Brussels.

President Macron of France has reacted to the passing to the Letwin Amendment, which has postponed a vote on the Withdrawal Bill, by saying delay is "in nobody's interest".

On Sunday morning, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier insisted it was business as usual, telling ITV News: "As foreseen, the EU ambassadors meet this morning to take the next steps for the EU ratification".

Leaving the briefing, Mr Barnier said it was "very short and normal meeting" - but defered questions on an extension to EU President Tusk.

He refused to answer if it is "business as usual".

It appears there's also no appetite for no-deal, and that's why any letter containing a request from the UK government asking for a delay beyond October 31 - a letter Boris Johnson is legally compelled to write - is highly likely to be granted by the EU Council.

EU Council President Donald Tusk earlier tweeted that he had spoken to Mr Johnson and was "waiting for the letter".

Boris Johnson confirmed he will be writing to him on Saturday night to seek a Brexit delay.

EU Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva tweeted shortly after the Commons vote, saying that the commission "takes note" that the "Withdrawal Agreement itself was not put to a vote today".

There's a certain ring of relief to that.

A view perhaps echoed by the Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki who tweeted that he "welcomes" the vote "not as a rejection of the deal but as a postponement of its acceptance".

The Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also appears to taking the EU's line, their much-prized unity appearing again, by saying: "The EU & UK agreed a Withdrawal Agreement on Thursday that defends Ireland's interests. The Commons voted today to defer a decision on whether or not to ratify that agreement.

“To date, no request for an extension has been made by the UK Government."

In other words, the EU appears to have decided to watch and wait.

The European Parliament's Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt says the vote and its implications will be discussed on Monday by senior MEPs.

"Whatever happens next, the marches outside the Parliament show just how important a close EU - UK future relationship is," he said in a Tweet.

There is still time for the Bill itself to be voted on, that could happen on Monday.

If it passes, and if Parliament puts its skates on, all the legislation could pass through both houses just in time.

In that case, any written request for a delay could be accepted, granted but never used.

That seems to be the EU strategy for now.

Any letter sent will still be read as a farewell note.