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Brussels close to agreeing Brexit extension until January

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Via Financial Times

Brussels will seek EU agreement on Monday for a plan to grant Britain a Brexit extension until January 31 2020 while ruling out any renegotiation of the UK’s divorce deal.

Under a proposal circulated to EU27 governments on Sunday, and seen by the Financial Times, the EU would grant Britain’s request for a Brexit delay to the end of January, while leaving open the possibility for it to leave on December 1 2019 or on New Year’s Day if its withdrawal treaty has been ratified. 

The plan, which is set to be discussed by national ambassadors in Brussels on Monday, would also see EU leaders “firmly” exclude any reopening of UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, ruling out further negotiations on the terms of the UK’s departure after more than two years of talks.

Leaders would also underline Britain’s obligation to nominate a member of the next European Commission — something Boris Johnson has so far refused to do. 

The proposal is an attempt by Donald Tusk, European Council president, to forge a consensus among EU capitals on an extension date, after France clashed with the rest of the EU last week over how much time should be given to the UK. Paris has asked for more clarity from London over whether new elections will be held before the end of the year. 

EU diplomats said that the plan now on the table had been drawn up with French involvement.

EU capitals on Friday were already in “full agreement” that there was a need for an extension beyond October 31, according to one EU official, but they differed on how long the extension should be.

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An extension requires unanimous approval by EU27 leaders.

One EU diplomat said they expected the deal to win the necessary support at the ambassadors meeting on Monday morning. “Constructive talks have gone on throughout the weekend. There is now a good proposal on the table that should make it possible to find consensus,” said the diplomat. 

Under the plan, the extension would run to January 31 inclusive at the latest, meaning the UK’s exit treaty would take effect on February 1. A further UK request and EU decision would be needed to extend any further beyond this. 

As well as ruling out any further negotiation on the UK’s withdrawal agreement, the text seen by the FT also reiterates requirements attached to previous Brexit extensions for Britain to behave in a “constructive” way during its remaining time as an EU member state, and to “refrain from any measure that could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives”.

The move to agree a joint EU27 position and win over France comes as the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists on Saturday said they would support a motion to hold a UK general election on December 9

One EU diplomat said that tougher language on the nomination of a UK commissioner was demanded by France as it seeks to exert pressure on the House of Commons to agree to the deal. 

Mr Tusk has been pushing for an extension to January 31, in line with Mr Johnson’s request this month. The French government declined to comment. 

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