New August deadline
Brexit day pushed back as Euro election goes ahead
David Lidington: ‘regrettable’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Britain’s departure from the EU has been pushed back to 1 August after a UK government minister admitted there was not enough time to negotiate a deal.
Theresa May had hoped to reach agreement on withdrawal from the EU which would have avoided Britain holding European elections on 23 May.
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said “regrettably” it is “not going to be possible to finish that process” before the date the UK legally has to take part. He said the government would try to make the delay “as short as possible”.
The UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March, but as no deal was agreed by Parliament, the EU extended the deadline to 31 October.
It means MEPs elected later this month could take their seats in the European Parliament for a handful of weeks. This has caused anger from those claiming the election is a waste of public money – estimated to be costing £150m, largely because of a £90m bill to hire ‘returning officers’ at short notice.
Some critics say candidates include opportunists seeking a means to earn several thousand pounds for doing very little in the knowledge that they are likely to be fulfilling a legal obligation rather than an electoral role.
The move came as cross-party talks between Tory Ministers and their Labour counterparts on a compromise Brexit deal failed to reach agreement.