The European Union is likely to offer the UK a Brexit delay until the end of 2019 at the earliest, according to EU officials, with conditions attached to ensure good behavior during the extension.
Many EU chiefs now think a long delay to Brexit is necessary to avoid the bloc being held hostage to internal wrangling in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, according to three EU officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity after a meeting of the bloc’s 27 remaining governments in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
Leaders believe allowing the UK the possibility of staying for many more months is the best way to put pressure on pro-Brexit members of Parliament to approve the divorce deal, the officials said.
While the EU hasn’t finalised a date to offer the UK, the most likely outcome will be a Brexit delay until December 31, the officials said. A final decision will be taken by EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday evening.
Some governments have reservations about the end-2019 date, but none are totally opposed as long as strict conditions are imposed on the UK’s ability to affect EU decision-making during their extended membership, the officials said.
France continues to lead a group of countries seeking tough “sincere cooperation” conditions on the UK and has floated the possibility of a review moment - possibly in October, one official said - when both sides would assess the UK’s behavior and the chances of Brexit happening by year-end.
The EU wants May to outline before Wednesday’s summit begins how the UK will promise not to damage EU business during the extended Brexit period.