Theresa May has told MPs it remains her “priority” to deliver Brexit, defending the decision to delay the UK’s exit from the EU by more than six months.
The new deadline of 31 October, set following late-night talks in Brussels, means the UK is likely to have to hold European Parliament elections in May. The prime minister promised to pursue an “orderly” Brexit, adding that the “whole country” was “frustrated”. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the latest delay a “diplomatic failure”. Brexit was originally set to happen on 29 March. But after MPs repeatedly rejected Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, the deadline was put back to 12 April.
The new 31 October deadline averts the prospect of the UK having to leave the EU without a deal this Friday. But, under EU rules, the UK will have to hold European Parliament elections in May, or face leaving on 1 June without a deal. In a statement to the House of Commons, Mrs May said she “profoundly” regretted her deal not being agreed to by MPs. She said: “The whole country is intensely frustrated that this process of leaving the European Union has not been completed.”
On the latest delay, she said: “The choices we face are stark and the timetable is clear. I believe we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest.” Mrs May also told MPs that backing her deal would mean there was no need for European Parliament elections.