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New Brexit date proposed but not agreed at EU Summit as Macron warns of no-deal

The European Parliament's president has warned that the Brexit divorce day deadline cannot be pushed past April 18 because doing so would cause havoc to plans for the imminent MEP elections, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith in Brussels.

Antonio Tajani gave the latest cliff-edge deadline suggestion during a briefing with reporters this afternoon - causing yet more confusion over the already proposed May 23 and June 30 EU and UK delay proposals.

Speaking on the outskirts of the EU summit in Brussels with just eight days to go until the still official Friday March 29 Brexit divorce date, Mr Tajani said from a European parliament perspective any extension cannot go further than April 18.

The Italian politician said this is because April 18 is "the last day possible" for member states - including Britain - to clarify their plans for the MEP elections and that any delay past this date would cause havoc to the ballot.

I requested that any extension be as brief as possible, and no later than the 18 of April, which will be the last day possible for the UK to organise the European parliament elections.

"Secondly, for the European Parliament an extension would only make sense if next week there would be an agreement in the House of Commons on the withdrawal agreement, otherwise it would make no sense for a withdrawal extension," Mr Tajani told the briefing.

The European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council have been known to disagree on issues due to their differing priorities.

However, Mr Tajani's latest Brexit delay date proposal has muddied the already murky Brexit waters even further.

This is because, with just eight days to go before the still official and legally binding Friday March 29 Brexit divorce date, there are several potential cliff-edges for when a decision must be made. They include:

  • March 29 - the still official Brexit date unless an agreement for a deal or an extension can be found
  • April 18 - Mr Tajani's proposal in order to prevent any damage being caused to the MEP elections
  • May 23 - the European Commission's proposed extension date, to be discussed by the EU summit on Thursday evening, which is based on the strict condition the House of Commons finally backs the Brexit deal at the third attempt next week
  • and June 30 - the extension date proposed by British prime minister Theresa May
  • Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron has warned British prime minister Theresa May she will be facing a "no deal" crash out Brexit if the House of Commons rejects her deal next week.

    In a message on Twitter during the first day of the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Macron doubled down on his insistence a Brexit deadline extension should not be assumed.

    Writing in French, he said: "On Brexit, we need to be clear about ourselves, our British friends and our people. The withdrawal agreement cannot be renegotiated. In case of negative British vote, we would go to a no-deal."

    Mr Macron's comments came after he had earlier told reporters as he arrived for the EU summit that, 1,001 days on from the June 2016 Brexit referendum vote, now is the time a decision must be made.

    "We have to be clear. we can discuss and agree a technical extension in case of a yes vote. In case of no, it will guide to a no deal. For sure. This is it. We are ready," he said.