Spain’s president Pedro Sánchez believes the Brexit ‘flextension’ until October 31 is ‘reasonable’ and is ‘confident’ Theresa May’s government will remain ‘loyal’ until the UK finally leaves the European Union.
An extraordinary Council of Europe meeting went on until the early hours of this morning (Thursday) after which it was agreed that a longer extension would be given for the UK to achieve agreement on how to leave the bloc, but with the option of departing earlier than the end of October if Mrs May is able to secure support for her deal before this date.
The ‘flextension’ was proposed to prevent the uncertainty of a series of short extensions being requested and the remaining EU-27 having to vote on them each time they were sought, and the date was chosen because this is when the European Commission is due for ‘renewal’ and all national leaders will be required to elect members.
Sánchez reiterated his conviction that Brexit is the result of public misinformation and the rise of the far right.
“The great lesson we should all learn from everything that’s happening in the UK is that when a decision based on lies is placed in the hands of the people, it, unfortunately, forces the British public into a dead end, as we’re seeing; the country has been unable to govern this situation,” Sánchez told reporters as he left the Council of Europe meeting.
But he stresses that the next step is up to the UK.
“The ball remains in the British Parliament’s court, and all scenarios remain possible – a no-deal Brexit could still happen,” he said.
Like the rest of the Union, Sánchez said Spain’s priority and its loyalty is to the 27 member States and to preserve their unity, rather than to a member which has chosen to leave.
“And this unity has been achieved,” he believes.
“Now, we have to wait and see how things progress in the negotiations between the British government and the opposition Labour party, and to see whether the UK will indeed take part in the European Parliamentary elections.”
If Britain opts not to field candidates for the EU elections, it will automatically leave the Union on June 1 without a deal, unless one has been agreed in national Parliament before then.
“The EU does not want a disorderly Brexit, but this has still not been ruled out; however, if it does, Spain has done its homework,” the president recalls, referring to the Bill of Law, or Royal Decree passed last month in a bid to protect British nationals living in Spain, trade between the two countries, and transport, in the event of the UK’s crashing out of the bloc.
Sánchez says the EU is ‘showing compromise, commitment and perspective’ in order to ‘maintain the best possible relationship’ with the UK in the ‘unfortunate’ event of a no-deal Brexit.
“Without a doubt, we’re putting all our intelligence and political will into avoiding a no-deal, which could have serious negative economic and social consequences for the UK.”
Among the conditions put forward by the EU-27 for agreeing a ‘flextension’ to the end of October, Sánchez explains, is that the UK ‘must be respectful’ in its dealings with the Union, and also with its four ‘freedoms of movement’ – of people, goods, services and capital – which are ‘enshrined in the treaties’ of the EU, and that the UK is required to comply with all treaties whilst it remains a member.
“This extension gives the UK more time to clarify its position, including whether it intends to participate in the European elections, and it also safeguards the interests of the EU-27,” Sánchez concluded.