Exasperated EU powers demand Brexit clarity from London

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European Union (EU) powers yesterday demanded London tell them clearly what it wants from Brexit, warning they had no appetite to sign off on vague plans to delay Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid to get her EU divorce deal through Parliament suffered the latest in a long series of blows on Monday when the speaker ruled MPs could not vote again on the same proposal they had already rejected.

The bombshell ruling leaves May scrambling to avoid a chaotic no-deal departure in less than a fortnight, but EU heavyweights Germany and France warned they would not agree to delay Brexit simply to save the PM’s skin.

“We are really exhausted by these negotiations and I expect clear and precise proposals by the British government why such an extension is necessary,” Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth said as he arrived for talks in Brussels.

“I don’t have any appetite for substanceless discussions and negotiations on the Brexit. Please deliver, dear friends in London, please deliver. The clock is ticking.”

EU leaders had hoped May would come to their summit in Brussels tomorrow with a plan to ratify the withdrawal deal before the scheduled March 29 departure date.

But May’s hopes of convincing Brexiteers to give in at long last and support her accord – which they have already rejected twice – was scuttled by speaker John Bercow’s shock announcement that MPs could not be asked to vote again on the same deal in this session of Parliament.

If she cannot get the deal through, May could seek a long delay to Brexit, but this will need the agreement of all remaining 27 EU countries.

French Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau said they would not simply put the request through on the nod.

“We need something new, because if it’s an extension to remain in the same deadlock where we are, how do we get out of this deadlock? This is a question for the British authorities. They have to come with an initiative, a clear one, a purpose credible and supported by a majority,” Loiseau told reporters.

“It’s a choice to be made by the United Kingdom. They’ve said no to a no deal and they have said no to a realistic deal. They have to change their mind on one of the two options.”

A senior EU official said on Monday that May could request a Brexit delay even as late as one hour before departure, but Loiseau warned that if London cannot find a way out of the impasse, it will crash out without a deal in place.

“If there’s no decision and March 29 comes then it’s no deal. If Britain decides on nothing then it chooses no deal,” she said.