Remarkably succinct was a European Union official’s take on Thursday’s extension of the Brexit deadline ~ “12 April is the new 29 March.” The fortnight’s breather was extended to Theresa May to devise an alternative Brexit plan if her deal collapses next week. Thus far, the British Prime Minister has failed to convince EU that she is capable of avoiding a no-deal Brexit. Going by the terms of the new arrangement, Britain will remain a member-state until 12 April if the withdrawal agreement is rejected by MPs for the third time. The government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period if it can “indicate a way forward” and agree to hold European elections. Given the roller-coaster course of Brexit ever since the referendum in June 2016 and the recurrent legislative setbacks that Mrs May has suffered, a possible breakthrough ~ with the consent of the Conservative MPs ~ doesn’t readily inspire optimism. Ergo, the extension of the deadline is at best a reprieve in the midst of a turbulent phase of British constitutional development. Though a make-or-break consummation on 29 March has for now been staved off, the war of nerves ~ with Brussels and a section of the Tories ~ shall persist till a week before the Easter break. If Mrs May does win the support of the Commons when the Brexit deal goes to MPs again next Tuesday, the UK will remain a memberstate until 22 May to allow necessary withdrawal legislation to be passed. All options will remain open till 12 April, and the “cliff-edge date” will be delayed. Under the terms of the agreement hammered out around midnight on Thursday, the government will have a choice of four ~ a deal, nodeal, a long extension, or revoking Article 50. The extension could be on offer “until the very end”, to quote the European Commission president, Jean- Claude Juncker. Mrs May has, therefore, urged MPs to back her deal to secure the Brexit delay until 22 May. The outlook is ever so uncertain.
Clearly, the European Union has acted to protect its interests in response to a possible “vacuum” in Westminster, indeed the inherent contradiction of a government in suspended animation in the fountain-head of democracy. Strange things can happen; strange things always do. Europe and the dissenting Tories must give it to the EU that it has responded with remarkable clarity to the political crisis in Britain. “The British politicians are incapable to put in place what their people have demanded. Their people voted for Brexit,” the French President, Emannuel Macron, reminded EU leaders as he stepped out of the headquarters after Thursday’s crucial summit. Alone among the European Heads of State and government, Mr Macron has articulated the core of the matter ~ Brexit echoes the voice of the people on 23 June 2016. Considering the unnerving narrative over the past three years, Mrs Theresa May deserves a respite. She really does.