"Trick or Treat Brexit" delay to haunt PM May as Britain wakes up to another 6 months in EU

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-11 21:32:47|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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LONDON, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Opinions were mixed Thursday on the Brexit delay date of Oct. 31 agreed upon by British and European Union (EU) leaders.

The newly-proposed departure date has already ensured that it will be known as the "Trick or Treat Brexit," falling on the eve of Halloween.

It was well after 2:00 a.m. (0000 GMT) before Prime Minister Theresa May gave her verdict to the decision in Brussels by the 27 leaders of EU member states to allow, on the eve of Britain's proposed departure date, to give May and her squabbling politicians another six months to make up their minds.

As politicians outlined their grim prospects for May and her Conservative government, Britain's national newspapers, collectively known as Fleet Street, went into early morning overdrive to give their verdict on the latest development after EU Council President Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced the decision.

The Times and the Guardian both headlined May planning to stay on as prime minister, insisting that she could still strike a Brexit deal.

The "i" newspaper's front page said there was a backbench mutiny by Conservative members of parliament (MPs) over the protracted delay to Britain's departure from the EU.

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant wrote in the Daily Telegraph that May humiliated herself and Britain by begging Brussels for more time on Brexit, adding "it will haunt her."

"The Prime Minister should not expect to be buoyed by her party's support," he said, warning the Conservatives risked losing dozens of its seats in the House of Commons in the next election.

Also in the Telegraph, the newspaper's Europe editor Peter Foster said what emerged from six hours of talks in Brussels was "an ugly duckling compromise driven as much by the need to resolve Franco-German differences as it was anything to do with addressing the merits of Theresa May's request for an extension."

The eventual outcome of the extension is now arguably the worst of all worlds, said Foster.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said May is no closer to getting a deal through the British Parliament and the pressure on her to go will increase dramatically.

"Without changes to her deal, it is difficult to see how she would get the support of enough MPs for it to pass," he added.

Putting on a brave face to defend the British government, Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng said the aim was still to get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons before May 22 to avoid Britain taking part in European Parliament elections.

"It's been a difficult process but I think that people are beginning to see that a deal is the way out of the EU," Kwarteng said in an early morning radio interview.

Kwarteng said the government was still preparing for the eventuality of no deal, adding Britain would have to take part in European elections if a withdrawal deal is not agreed.

MP Mary Creagh welcomed the outcome of the Brussels summit, saying: "People across the UK will be relieved at this sensible extension. Parliament must agree and MPs must move swiftly to break the Brexit deadlock with a confirmatory ballot on the Prime Minister's deal."

The call for a second referendum also came from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a staunch opponent of Brexit.

Sturgeon said: "It is a relief that, thanks to the patience of the EU, we will not be crashing out tomorrow. But the UK must not waste this time -- allowing people to decide if they still want to leave is now imperative."

Other politicians joined the growing chorus wanting a so-called People's Vote on a deal or Britain remaining in the EU.

MP Tom Brake said: "The British people have been given a lifeline. A flextension until 31st Oct is long enough to hold a People's Vote."

Referring to bilateral talks between the two main party leaders, Brake asked: "Will Theresa May and (Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn surprise us all by agreeing to test the will of the people. Or will they let their narrow party and personal interests prevail?"

Former Labour front-bencher Chuka Umunna said members of the breakaway Independent Group of MPs at Westminster also wanted a second referendum.

"Unless the main party leaders do a backroom deal to enable a customs union Brexit and deny the British people a say over this mess -- a big risk -- this extension paves the way for Euro elections and a People's Vote, which we must grab with two hands for the sake of future generations," Umunna said.

Labour's shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said he now accepts that a people's vote may offer a solution to the Brexit deadlock.

"Some sort of people's vote may be necessary as a way out of this impasse. Now that the deadline has been extended, we are trying to see if a compromise can be sorted. If that can't be done, if the prime minister won't move on red lines, then a public vote of some description may be needed as a way out of this mess," he said in a media interview.

Talks between the Conservative government and Labour are scheduled to resume Thursday, but in the first three rounds of talks between the two, no prospects of an agreed deal emerged.

Away from politics, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said: "This new extension means that an imminent economic crisis has been averted, but it needs to mark a fresh start. More of the same will just mean more chaos this autumn."

The continuing rift between Leave-backing and Remain-supporting politicians, reflected by Fleet Street analysis, points to tough days ahead as the elusive Brexit deal is sought.

The catch phrase -- Deal or No Deal -- is now competing with a "Trick or Treat Brexit."