British Prime Minister Theresa May has officially announced via her de facto deputy David Lidington that the UK will not be able to leave the EU as early as the government had hoped and therefore will be participating in the European Elections on May 23rd. The statement surprised no one but the possibility had technically still been on the table.
May had declared that there was a chance the country would complete the Brexit process and leave the bloc in time to avoid having to take part in the elections back in April, when she asked the EU for a delay on the original leaving date.
Until then, the UK had been set to leave the European Union on March 29th. After the EU granted a six-month delay, May was still hoping to get members of parliament (MPs) to approve her deal quickly enough to leave before the European Elections. She has now conceded the plan is no longer viable, as there is not enough time left to get a deal through parliament.
The scheduled date for the UK to leave the EU is currently October 31st. Even for that exit date to become a reality, however, a deal still needs to be done. Over the past couple of weeks, the UK’s two main parties, the governing Conservative Party and the opposing Labour Party, have been engaged in talks to try and find a compromise they can agree on so as to reach a proposal that will convince a majority in parliament to back it and finally pass the bill.
Since no real progress seems to have been made since the EU extended the deadline, the questions concerning what is going to happen remain the same: will there be another delay, will a deal be negotiated and passed, or will the EU stop agreeing to extensions so that the UK eventually crashes out with no deal at all?
Lidington said it was “regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process," in reference to the country leaving before the European Elections but promised to make the delay "as short as possible." May deeply regretted the move, her spokesperson said, as reported by the BBC.
MPs in May’s Conservative Party have been demanding that the Prime Minister resign or at least give a date for when she plans to do so, after disastrous local election results made them lose confidence in their party leader. Many of the party members who would like to see a harder Brexit have grown angry over the recent efforts to find a compromise with the Labour Party.
May commented the cross-party talks were a necessary step to find a deal that could be supported by a majority after her previously negotiated deal with the EU was rejected in parliament three times. She also dismissed the calls for her resignation, saying Brexit was “not an issue about me.” According to the BBC, a spokesperson elaborated that May would make way for a new leader after fulfilling her promise to deliver the first stage of Brexit and described her offer to step down after ‘phase 1’ as a “generous and bold” offer.