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EU leaders agree Brexit extension - October deadline 'sensible'

Britain's Prime minister Theresa May looks on ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit at The Europa Building at The European Parliament in Brussels on April 10, 2019. (Photo by Olivier Hoslet / POOL / AFP)OLIVIER HOSLET/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime minister Theresa May looks on ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit at The Europa Building at The European Parliament in Brussels on April 10, 2019. (Photo by Olivier Hoslet / POOL / AFP)OLIVIER HOSLET/AFP/Getty Images
Prime Minister Theresa May and Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU, arrive at the European Council in Brussels where European Union leaders are meeting to discuss Brexit. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The EU has granted the UK another Brexit extension with one leader saying the new Halloween deadline was "sensible".

EU diplomats have told the Reuters news agency the EU 27 has agreed the extension until Halloween with a review to take place in June.

It's thought the date was chosen as it would mean the UK would leave before the first sitting of the new EU Commission on November 1. Should The UK remain in the EU past that point it could create another constitutional headache for the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed an extension had been agreed among the leaders and invited Theresa May back for talks in the early hours of Thursday morning in Brussels.

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said the 31 October deadline was "sensible".

He tweeted: "A #Brexit extension until 31 October is sensible since it gives time to UK to finally choose its way. The review in June will allow #EUCO to take stock of the situation."

Prime Minister Theresa May had requested an extension until the end of June. She addressed the leaders at a special summit on Wednesday evening before leaving to allow a discussion to take place.

Mrs May set out her case for a short extension in a presentation behind closed doors lasting around one hour, during which she answered questions from the leaders of the 27 other member states.

She then left the room to allow the EU27 to discuss the UK’s future in her absence over a dinner of scallop salad, loin of cod with brown shrimps and iced macadamia nut parfait.

The group have been locked in the summit for almost five hours debating the issue. It is understood French President Emmanuel Macron was the most resistant to the UK's request and did not want any extension to pass beyond the end of June. He was said to have wanted clarity and assurances from the UK on its role in the EU after the May elections and on the process of getting Commons agreement on a deal.

He warned that a no-deal Brexit would be less damaging than a "disruptive" UK remaining for month after month.

It has been reported there was much dismay and anger in the summit among the 27 leaders at the position taken by France.

Failure to reach unanimous agreement would mean the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal at 11pm on Friday.

The Prime Minister had asked for a delay to June 30, with a break clause allowing the UK to leave as soon as Parliament has ratified her Withdrawal Agreement.

European leaders were said to want a longer extension with an option to leave earlier should the opportunity arise to allow for it.

Tory sources said that the PM stood by commitments made to the backbench 1922 Committee that she would hand over to a successor for the second phase of negotiations after ratification.

The Prime Minister will update the Commons on Thursday as to progress made with the EU.

After addressing the EU Mrs May said: “I have asked for an extension to June 30, but what is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, so we can leave on May 22 and start to build our brighter future.”

In a swipe at the Brexit rebels who blocked her Withdrawal Agreement from passing through Parliament in time to leave on the scheduled date of March 29, Mrs May said: “I know many people are frustrated that the summit is taking place at all, because the UK should have left the EU by now.

“I greatly regret the fact that Parliament hasn’t been able to pass a deal that would have enabled us to leave in a smooth and orderly way.

“But I and the Government continue to work to find a way forward. We have been talking with the opposition. There’s been serious and constructive talks and they will continue tomorrow.”

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