At least two EU founding countries - France and Italy - are ready to block at the summit on March 21-22 a Brexit delay scheduled for March 29 unless there are guarantees that this move would ensure a well-organized departure, a European diplomatic source told TASS.
"France and Italy are ready to block delaying Brexit at the EU summit unless they get guarantees that this decision would ensure London’s signing of a deal with the EU and a well-organized exit," the source said.
According to the source, other Western European countries, including Luxembourg, may share this stance if the United Kingdom puts up for vote the issue on postponing the Brexit date.
In comments on Tuesday’s discussion on Brexit at the EU Council at the level of ministers for European affairs, the source said that most EU member-states "don’t see any sense in delaying the UK’s exit from the EU without a particular goal that can be achieved."
"Each day of delay increases uncertainty and economic damage due to this situation. If we see no clear prospect of how the delay for a couple of months may guarantee reaching a deal between London and Brussels, the no-deal Brexit with defining new rules of the game later is becoming more preferable, although we have done our utmost to avoid it," the source added.
France’s Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau on Tuesday hinted upon her arrival at the EU Council’s meeting in Brussels that France shared this stance, saying that delaying Brexit "is not a decision, but is a method if there is a goal and strategy." She also highlighted that London, which has been unable to endorse the Brexit deal, should clearly outline the goal and strategy of its further steps. According to Loiseau, this uncertainty around Brexit is unacceptable.
Last week, the British parliament backed the government’s proposal on rescheduling the UK’s official withdrawal from the European Union, due on March 29, to a later date. Now the British government is to request a so-called technical delay, if the House of Commons manages to pass by March 20 the draft Brexit deal, which Prime Minister Therese May had reached at talks with Brussels. In case this does not happen, the cabinet of ministers will demand delaying Brexit for a longer term, which needs to be agreed on with the EU.
The talks on a Brexit deal have lasted nearly two years since the UK officially notified the European Council on March 29, 2017 about its plans to leave the EU.