Theresa May has formally requested another short-term Article 50 extension in a letter to Donald Tusk, asking the EU27 to delay Britain;'s exit date until June 30 on the condition that the UK would participate in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections, while leaving open the possibility that the UK could leave earlier if it manages to pass her deal.
When May first requested a short term extension last month, the EU27 rejected her proposed date of June 30, and instead countered with an offer for a two-week extension, with a longer delay contingent on whether Parliament would manage to pass the withdrawal agreement. At the time, observers whined that a two-week extension wasn't long enough, and...well...
Here it is:— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) April 5, 2019
The PM’s letter to Donald Tusk in which she ‘reluctantly’ requests an extension of Article 50 to 30 June, 2019 pic.twitter.com/46ywkAKNDk
As analysts scramble to read the tea leaves, a team from Credit Agricole reasoned that the EU probably wouldn't accept a short-term delay, citing the stated preference for a longer extension by some key officials.
"We will have to wait until next week to see whether we will get an extension at all," said strategist Valentin Marinov.
"GBP is a bit weaker on the back of that potentially because the request for a lengthier extension is seen as a recognition that May may not be able to get the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament next week as hoped."
According to Buzzfeed, Brussels suspects May’s talks with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn are likely to fail, and that the PM will instead be forced to hold another series of 'indicative votes' to try and suss out a plan that would actually have a chance of passing in the increasingly divided commons.
The extension could be until the end of the year - or even as late as March 2020.
Ultimately, whether to accept May's request must be decided by the EU27 at next week's summit.
The decision on whether to grant a long extension and its terms will ultimately be one for the 27 leaders when they meet in Brussels on 10 April. However, in the lead up to next week’s summit, some governments, including France, have adopted a tougher stance than others on the prospect of granting the UK a long extension to simply keep debating its options, an EU27 leader told BuzzFeed News.
One senior official, quoting Tusk, said the UK needs a "long but flexible extension" - or "flextension."
A senior EU official quoted Tusk saying: “The only reasonable way out would be a long but flexible extension. I would call it a 'flextension'.
How would it work in practice? We could give the UK a year-long extension, automatically terminated once the Withdrawal Agreement has been accepted and ratified by the House of Commons.”
The EU official added: “And even if this were not possible, then the UK would still have enough time to rethink its Brexit strategy. Short extension if possible and a long one if necessary. It seems to be a good scenario for both sides, as it gives the UK all the necessary flexibility, while avoiding the need to meet every few weeks to further discuss Brexit extensions.”
Still, according to reports earlier in the week, the EU wants another extension to be accompanied by commitments and a "gentleman's agreement" with the UK that it will hold the parliamentary vote, and that May would continue to push for her thrice-rejected withdrawal agreement.
As the bloc debates May's proposal, it's worth remembering that any extension would need to be approved by the entire EU27. That leaves plenty of room for one reluctant party to send Britain crashing out of the EU at the end of the summit.