President Donald Trump: ‘set for June state visit to UK’

Buckingham Palace is expected to announce on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump will make a state visit to the UK in early June.

The president was promised the visit by Prime Minister Theresa May after he was elected in 2016 – but no date was set.

Downing Street did not comment on the matter when contacted by the BBC.

President Trump and the first lady, Melania, visited the UK in July 2018 for a two-day working visit.

During the 2018 trip, the president met Mrs May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle before heading to Scotland, where he owns the Turnberry golf course.

The president’s last trip to the UK was marked by demonstrations around the UK.

In London, thousands of protestors took to the streets to voice their concerns about the visit.

And in Scotland, people showed their displeasure both in Edinburgh and at Turnberry.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council estimated that the police operation for the president’s 2018 visit cost nearly £18m.

It said 10,000 officers from across the country were needed to cover the occasion.


What is a state visit?

Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama during a State Banquet in Buckingham Palace on 24 May 2011
The Queen welcomed President Barack Obama to Buckingham Palace in 2011

A state visit is a formal visit by a head of state and is normally at the invitation of the Queen, who acts on advice from the government.

State visits are grand occasions, but they are not just ceremonial affairs. They have political purpose and are used by the government of the day to further what it sees as Britain’s national interests.

Once the location and dates are confirmed, the government, the visiting government and the royal household will agree on a detailed schedule.

So what is involved?

The Queen acts as the official host for the duration of the trip, and visitors usually stay at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.

There is usually a state banquet, and a visit to – and speeches at – the Houses of Parliament may be included. The Speaker of the House of Commons is one of three “key holders” to Westminster Hall, and as such, effectively holds a veto over who addresses Parliament.

The Queen usually receives one or two heads of state a year. She has hosted 109 state visits since becoming monarch in 1952.

The official website of the Queen and the Royal Family has a full list of all state visits since then, including details of how the ceremonies unfold.

Theresa May: Cross-party talks to resume

Talks between the government and Labour on Brexit will resume later as MPs return to Westminster following the Easter break.

Cabinet ministers will meet senior opposition figures in an attempt to solve the impasse by finding a deal that could win the support of MPs.

But some Tory MPs are angry the talks with Labour are even taking place.

Leading backbencher Nigel Evans called on Theresa May to step down as prime minister “as soon as possible”.

The joint executive secretary of the back bench 1922 Committee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership of the Conservative Party.

If there was an announcement today by the prime minister then of course we could start the process straight away.”

His comments came after it emerged that Mrs May faces a no-confidence challenge, from Tory campaigners.

More than 70 local association chiefs have called for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss her leadership and a non-binding vote is to be held at the National Conservative Convention EGM.

Under party rules, MPs cannot call another no-confidence vote until December 2019.

However, if the grass-roots vote showed a lack of confidence – it could put pressure on the 1922 Committee to find a way of forcibly removing the PM from office.

Mrs May is due to chair a cabinet meeting in the morning, and her de facto deputy, David Lidington, will attend the talks with Labour later.

Senior members of the 1922 committee will meet in the afternoon.

Ribble Valley MP Mr Evans said there were “severe problems” over Brexit and he hoped Mrs May “does accept the fact the call for her resignation now is growing into a clamour”.

Earlier, Mr Evans, told the BBC Mrs May “had been reaching out to the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, when she should have been reaching out to the people”.

In separate news, Change UK will launch its European election campaign in Bristol, while Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will unveil its candidates in London.

The UK has been given an extension to the Brexit process until 31 October, This means the UK is likely to hold European Parliament elections on 23 May.

PM to face grassroots no-confidence vote

Prime Minister Theresa May is to face an unprecedented no-confidence challenge – from Conservative grassroots campaigners.

More than 70 local association chiefs – angry at her handling of Brexit – have called for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss her leadership.

A non-binding vote will be held at that National Conservative Convention EGM.

Dinah Glover, chairwoman of the London East Area Conservatives, said there was “despair in the party”.

She told the BBC: “I’m afraid the prime minister is conducting negotiations in such a way that the party does not approve.”

The Conservative Party’s 800 highest-ranking officers, including those chairing the local associations, will take part in the vote.

Mrs May, survived a vote of confidence her MPs in December – although 117 Conservatives voted against her.

Under party rules, MPs cannot call another no-confidence vote until December 2019.

However, an EGM has to convene if more than 65 local associations demand one via a petition.

The current petition, which has passed the signature threshold, states: “We no longer feel that Mrs May is the right person to continue as prime minister to lead us forward in the [Brexit] negotiations.

“We therefore, with great reluctance, ask that she considers her position and resigns, to allow the Conservative Party to choose another leader, and the country to move forward and negotiate our exit from the EU.”

It is believed to be the first time the procedure has been used.

Theresa May says UK will stand up for religious freedom

Theresa May says the UK “must stand up for the right of everyone” to practise their faith in peace.

In her Easter message, the prime minister said she will spend her time “giving thanks in church”, but for many Christians “such simple acts of faith can bring huge danger”.

About 245 million Christians worldwide are estimated to be facing persecution.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn compared Jesus’ experiences to the challenges currently facing some refugees.

Mrs May, a vicar’s daughter and practising Christian, said: “Churches have been attacked. Christians murdered. Families forced to flee their homes.

That is why the government has launched a global review into the persecution of Christians.

“We must stand up for the right of everyone, no matter what their religion, to practise their faith in peace.”

The government review, led by the Bishop of Truro, was launched in December to look into how much help the UK gives persecuted Christians.

Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi, a Christian, faced death threats after being acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan

In the Labour leader’s Easter message, Mr Corbyn said the experiences of Jesus as a refugee were “still familiar to us today”.

He said Jesus was “a refugee whose parents were forced to flee their home”, who went on to “know what it was to be ostracised, rejected and tortured”.

He added: “The refugee crisis is a moral test. Jesus taught us to respect refugees.”

Mr Corbyn also used his message to criticise the government for failing to take in child refugees, as well as Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s handling of the Channel migrant crossings over the winter.

He said: “In Britain, we have a proud history of providing a safe refuge to those in need. But this government refuses to meet our legal obligations to child refugees in Europe as required by the Dubs Amendment.”

The Dubs amendment, designed by the Labour peer and former child refugee Lord Dubs, was a scheme which aimed to let unaccompanied migrant children into the UK – but was ended by the government in 2017.

The Home Office responded by saying that the UK had provided protection to over 34,500 children since the start of 2010 and the government was “determined to deliver on its commitment” to relocating 480 children under the ‘Dubs amendment’.

Mr Corbyn went on: “At the end of last year as refugees tried to cross the Channel, Sajid Javid threatened to deploy the Navy.

“But in response, the Bishop of Dover said ‘it is crucial that we all remember we are dealing with human beings here’.”

The Labour leader added that “we can learn from Christian values” with churches leading the way in offering support to refugees.

Merkel ‘highly qualified’ for top EU job, says Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker | Aris Oikonomou

The German chancellor is ‘a lovable work of art,’ said the Commission president.

Angela Merkel would be “highly qualified” for a senior EU position once she steps down as chancellor, Jean-Claude Juncker said, referring to the German leader as “a lovable work of art.”

In an interview with the German Funke Media Group, the European Commission president, whose own term of office comes to an end in the fall, said he “cannot imagine” that Merkel would “disappear without trace.”

“She is not only a respected person but also a lovable work of art,” Juncker said.

But the Commission president was less complimentary about French President Emmanuel Macron over his refusal to back the Spitzenkandidat (or “lead candidate”) system for choosing the next Commission president. Juncker said he was a “great supporter” of the system, which was used for the first time, during his own appointment.

“One reason for the crisis of political credibility is precisely the fact that what is promised before the election is not what is done after,” he said.

“The Liberals, to whom Emmanuel Macron belongs, have failed to put up a lead candidate and have therefore nominated nine candidates,” said Juncker. “I can already tell you one thing: There will not be nine Liberal Commission presidents.”

Juncker’s European People’s Party looks set to win the most seats in the European Parliament, putting its Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber, in pole position to be Juncker’s successor.

On Brexit, Juncker said that there remained the risk that the U.K. would leave the bloc without a deal, despite the decision by EU leaders last week to extend the Article 50 deadline until October 31.

“Nobody knows how Brexit will end. This is creating great uncertainty. There is still a fear that there will be a hard Brexit without any withdrawal treaty arrangements,” he said, adding that Brexit would “stifle growth.”

“I hope that the British will make use of this time and not waste it again,” Juncker added.

Asked if he thought it “absurd” for Britain to participate in the European Parliament election, he said that if the U.K. is still an EU member on election day then the EU treaty would apply and so the election must be held. “We cannot punish the citizens just because the British have not managed to leave by the agreed date,” he said.

And on the security of the EU-wide poll more generally, the Commission president said he was concerned about attempts to influence the outcome.

“I can see an attempt to rig the European Parliament elections,” he said. “This comes from several quarters, and not only from outside the EU. States within the EU are also seeking to direct the will of voters in a particular direction with fake news.”

A new Brexiteer PM’s impossible promises could land us with no-deal Brexit, says former EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers

I think it’s the other side who could truncate this process and decide that no-deal is the right solution’.

The UK’s former EU ambassador, Sir Ivan Rogers, warned that a future Brexiteer Prime Minister could bring about a no-deal Brexit through impossible promises, despite the prospect being repeatedly ruled out by MPs in a series of votes in the Commons.

Sir Ivan resigned from his post as Permanent Representative to the EU before the end of his tenure in 2017 and has since issued a series of warnings about the Brexit process.

The former top civil servant told the BBC’s Newsnlight programme that European leaders are aware of the potential damage to the negotiations should a more “fervent” Brexiteer take control for the second stage.

‘A robust and bellicose position with Brussels’

Sir Ivan Rogers said a no-deal could be triggered by the EU. (Photo: BBC

He said: “I think the danger that we face – and I think people are acutely conscious of this incidentally in Brussels and Strasburg and Paris and Berlin – is that if we were to have a Conservative leadership election, might we have a sort of 2019 version of the syndrome I described in 2016.”

The process of appealing to the party base, which is, after all, more fervently eurosceptic than many of the parliamentarians and may well want a more true believer Brexiteer as their leader, will see various candidates give pledges as to the future direction of the Brexit talks on what they would do in phase two, that will essentially wreck any prospect of phase two succeeding.

So for example, if people were to give commitments saying, you know, ‘when I’m in power if you give me if you give me this job, I will reopen the withdrawal agreement, indicate that we can’t possibly accept the backstop and take a much more robust and bellicose position with Brussels’.

“Well, that leads fairly inexorably, I think, to a breakdown of the talks.”

Theresa May has said she would resign as Prime Minister if her deal is approved by the House of Commons that has rejected it on three occasions this year.

Sir Ivan, who said he left his post with the feeling that he did not have a “receptive audience” in Theresa May’s Government, also poured cold water on the idea that MPs have taken no-deal off the table by signalling in a number of votes that they do not wish for it to happen.

He said: “Well, it can happen because the other side can decide to pull the plug on these talks, and say, ‘we’re giving you a couple of extensions, you haven’t used the time, nothing has really happened, we’re aborting this process’. You’ve already seen the pressures coming above all from Paris, but Paris wasn’t alone in saying this at the April council.”

The UK was granted an extension to Brexit until 31 October after EU leaders rejected Theresa May’s proposals for an extension until June. Sir Ivan said that calls for the UK to be shown the door could gain greater support if no progress is made by then.

“If we’re cycling through this, again, six months down the track. I think there’ll be more appetite in the European Union to say ‘this is all a massive diversion from the agenda that we need to be pursuing.’ Brexit does not figure very high up on people’s list of the strategic agenda for the European Union.”

‘Truncate this process’

He said that the EU could decide to “abort” the process and then force the UK to sign up to many of the contentious aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, such as the Irish backstop and the so-called “divorce” payment of £39bn.

He said the EU could think: “We will just tell them that no trade negotiations start until we’ve been through that loop and let’s see what happens then.”

“I think it’s the other side who could truncate this process and decide that no deal is the right solution.”

Jeremy Corbyn told to commit to Brexit vote or let Farage snatch shock European elections victory

Senior Labour MP’s say Jeremy Corbyn must back a fresh Brexit referendum unequivocally within weeks or Nigel Farage will snatch a shock European elections victory.

Worried backbenchers piled pressure on the Labour leader to shift his stance before the 23 May poll, after the former Ukip Labour was revealed to be on course to triumph, at the head of his new Brexit Party.

A survey gave Mr Farage’s party a healthy five-point lead at 27 per cent of the vote, leaving both Labour (22 per cent) and the Conservatives  (15 per cent) trailing in his wake.

It came as the, Liberal Democrats accused other anti-Brexit parties of boosting their opponents by refusing pleas to fight on a joint ticket.

Labour supporters of a Final Say referendum seized on evidence that Mr Corbyn was heading for a further disastrous slump if his manifesto backed forcing through a Brexit deal in alliance with Theresa May.

A customs union deal – the aim of the current cross-party talks – would see Labour dip to just 15 per cent, according to the poll of 1,855 adults by YouGov, handing the Brexit Party a 10-point win.

But undiluted support for a further public vote would lift Labour to 23 per cent, with Mr Farage’s outfit only three points ahead.

Owen Smith, a former Labour leadership contender, told The Independent: “It’s very clear that Labour is losing support among our voters because the leadership has refused to give unambiguous support to a people’s vote on Brexit.

“We should never forget that the majority of Labour supporters voted Remain in 2016 and if we want to beat the Brexit parties we have to honour their views.”

Stephen Doughty , a former shadow minister, echoed the fear, saying: “We must put a public vote on Brexit at the core of our European manifesto.

“Pro-European voters who in all other respects support Labour need to see that message loud and clear. Otherwise we risk leeching support to other parties – which can only benefit Farage and his forces.”

Sir Vince Cable the Liberal Democrat leader, also said it “would be a game-changer” if Labour came out clearly to campaign to stay in the EU.

But he admitted: “I find it difficult to see they could do that given that Jeremy Corbyn has said repeatedly he is there to deliver Brexit, but it certainly would change the nature of the argument.”

Mr Farage’s surge follows the burst of publicity the Brexit Party received at its campaign launch last week, when Annunziata Rees-Mogg – the sister of the leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, was unveiled as a candidate.

It also heightened Tory fears that their party is heading for a crushing defeat, which would trigger fresh calls for the prime minister to quit.

Justine Greening the former Conservative education secretary, hinted she would quit if that resulted in her party adopting a harder Brexit position.

“It’s certainly a challenging time I think for me to be in the Conservative Party,” she said. “For me it was about three things: opportunity, a strong economy and well-managed public finances.

“And clearly I think if we become the Brexit party, that really goes against those three core tenets of what I think being a Conservative Party member is all about.”

Sir Vince lashed out at the Independent Group, for rejecting his pleas to stand joint candidates on 23 May, to boost the number of MEPs demanding a second referendum.

He revealed his party had proposed fighting together – a move that one election expert has predicted could deliver an extra six seats in Brussels.

Frustrated campaigners for a Final Say public vote also believe a unified campaign would have excited voters and delivered an even greater reward.

“It would be better, I think, from the point of view of the supporters of British membership of the EU if we were fighting together under the same banner,” Sir Vince said.

“Certainly that’s something we would like to have seen, but that wasn’t possible, we didn’t get a positive reaction to that, so we are going on our own.”

Change UK, the new party name for the Independent Group, has said it wants “no alliance and no pacts, but to be a new party standing on its own”, a stance echoed by the Green Party.

The YouGov poll put the Greens top among the pro-Remain parties on 10 per cent, ahead of the Liberal Democrats (9 per cent) and Change UK (6 per cent).

Brexit: High-tech solution to avoid hard Northern Ireland border ‘decade away’, leaked Home Office document says

‘The challenges of this work cannot be underestimated’, warns memo in blow to Brexiteer hopes of replacing backstop.

Any hi-tech solution to the problem of how to keep the Northern Ireland border open after Brexit is at least ten years away, a leaked Home Office document has said.

The memo said the cost and complexity of using new technology to remove the need for border checks meant “the challenges of this work cannot be underestimated”.

The finding will come as a blow to Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, who have repeatedly insisted that technology could be used to keep the border open in the event of a no-deal Brexit removing the need for the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

The memo, seen by Sky News, was drawn up by the Home Office’s Policy Unit and sent to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Treasury. It says there could be a possible technological solution but that it would come with a huge array of difficulties.

The solution would involve companies uploading data on goods and using blockchain technology, sensors and automated collection to pay tariffs. 

The memo said: “If all these technologies are brought together this could allow a seamless collection and analysis of the data needed. It would also provide the ability to target interventions away from the border itself.”

But it also warned of a series of practical problems in introducing the technology, including cost, time and complexity. 

It said: “The challenges of this work cannot be underestimated… No government worldwide currently controls different customs arrangements with no physical infrastructure present at the border.”

Warning that the technology would take over a decade to introduce, the document said: “Current realisation for a similar technological solution in the UK is 2030.”

The memo also highlighted the cost and difficulty of implementing such a project and questioned whether the government would be able to deliver it.

Opposing protesters flock to parliament on would be date of Brexit

1/30Pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporters attend a rally in Parliament Square after the final leg of the “March to Leave” in London

It said: “Any future system must operate with 28 government agencies and a myriad of interconnected existing and planned IT systems. There is currently no budget for either a pilot or the programme itself. And it will be expensive. 

“This suite of technology would need to operate on both sides of the border; as such it would require agreement and commitment from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and possibly the EU too. It is a big and complex project, with possibly tight deadlines.

“Government does not have the strongest track record on delivery of large tech projects.”

The question of how to keep the Northern Ireland border open after Brexit has been at the heart of the row over Britain’s EU withdrawal in recent months.

The EU insisted on the backstop, which would see the UK temporarily enter into a customs union with the EU if no other deal is agreed, to ensure there was not a return to a hard border even if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.

29/30A jogger gestures rudely at a Brexit supporter outside of the Houses of ParliamentAFP/Getty
30/30A Brexit supporter outside the Houses of Parliament

But Eurosceptics say the policy would see the UK tied to EU tariffs and rules indefinitely and therefore unable to strike new trade deals with other countries.

The government and the EU have agreed to look at “alternative arrangements”, such as new technology, that could be introduced to remove the need for the backstop to come into effect. 

Local Conservative party chairs are plotting to bring down Theresa May Local Conservative party chairs are plotting to bring down Theresa May

Brexit news: Theresa May facing no-confidence vote as grassroots Tories plot to oust PM

Theresa May could face an unprecedented no-confidence vote among grassroots Tories as local party chairman look to trigger a little-known process that could be “devastating to her authority”.

Party chairs have been circulating a petition that is on course to force the National Conservative Convention to hold an extraordinary general meeting where the vote could be held, according to the daily BBC Newslight.

The plot is being driven by growing “frustration and anger” over the prime minister’sBrexit  strategy, and comes as talks between Ms May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn continue to stall.

Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has endangered MPs, undermined parliamentary democracy, and wasted billions of pounds, according to Labour politician Pat McFadden.

Writing in The Independent, the MP for Wolverhampton South Eastsays his party leader Jeremy Corbyn must now answer “the call of leadership” by taking “co-ownership” of a Brexit deal or insisting on a second referendum.

Opinion: May’s Brexit strategy has put MPs in danger and wasted billions – Britain deserves a real leader, It should not be left to backbench MPs to defend Parliamentary democracy when the leader of our country undermines it and legitimises its rejection.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has has said it would “be better” if Remain-supporting political parties were “fighting together under the same banner” in the forthcoming European elections.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today this morning, Sir Vince acknowledged there was “not a great deal” of difference between his party’s message to the electorate and that of new party Change UK – The Independent Group, which will stand on a pro-EU platform calling for a second referendum.

He added:  “So, there’s a variety of different parties offering the same message, something which is possible under the proportional voting system that we have.

“It’s not crazy, I mean it would be better, I think, from the point of view of the supporters of British membership of the EU if we were fighting together under the same banner, and certainly that’s something we would like to have seen, but that wasn’t possible, we didn’t get a positive reaction to that, so we are going on our own.”

A grassroots no-confidence vote would put “massive pressure” on the prime minister resign, according to John Strafford, chair of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.

“It does not force the issue but would be quite devastating to her authority,” he told the Telegraph.

However, it is worth considering just how much authority Theresa May has left.

Mark Wallace, writing for ConservativeHome, notes that a no-confidence vote “would be another embarrassment for the prime minister, but she has ridden out many embarrassments before”.

Theresa May could face an unprecedented no-confidence vote among grassroots Tories as local party chairman look to trigger a little-known process that could be “devastating to her authority”.

Party chairs have been circulating a petition that could force the National Conservative Convention – the most senior body of the Tories’ voluntary wing – to hold an extraordinary general meeting where the vote could be held.

If the petition attracts more than 65 signatures, the party is obliged to hold the meeting. According to the daily,

between 40 and 50 chairs have already signed it and that figure could hit the threshold as early as next week.

Dinah Glover, the London East area chairman started the petition, told the newspaper: “There is a lot of frustration and anger within the party – this is a route that we have to demonstrate those feelings so we can encourage MPs to make those feelings known.

“What we need is a new leader who can break the impasse, who passionately believes that Britain has a bright Brexit future.”

Tiger Woods’ celebrates Masters’ win with his children – but not ex-wife Elin

TIGER WOODS’ sensational win at this year’s Master’s saw the legendary golfer break down in a flood of emotion as his children rushed to his side, but where was their mother, Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegren?

Both of Woods’ kids, 10-year-old Charlie and 11-year-old daughter Sam, were from his previous marriage with the former model from Sweden. Having his kids there to see him win a major for the first time in their lifetime clearly was extra special to the 43-year-old as he broke into tears on seeing them. Woods and Ms Nordegren divorced in August 2010, with court papers saying their relationship was “irretrievably broken”, which is likely to be the heartbreaking reason the model was absent on Sunday.

In a book published in 2017, called Unprecedented: The Masters and Me, Woods reflected on the behaviour that cost him his marriage.

Woods said: “Elin and I were so much in love when we married in 2004.

“But I betrayed her.

“My dishonesty and selfishness caused her intense pain.

Tiger Woods and ex wife Elin Nordegren’s children celebrate their father’s Masters success (
Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods divorced in 2010 

“Elin and I tried to repair the damage I had done, but we couldn’t.

“My regret will last a lifetime.”

Ms Nordegren reportedly received over $100 million (£76million) in the divorce settlement.

Woods spent the next several years plagued by injuries and recovering from surgeries until he was arrested in 2017 when police found him passed out behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz while it was stopped with its engine running in Florida.

Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods walking on the fairway 

A mugshot showed him with bleary eyes and dishevelled hair, and tests showed he had Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system.

But, the legendary golfer’s comeback has enthralled the world with congratulations coming from the great and the good.

Barack Obama tweeted: “Congratulations, Tiger!

“To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.”

Brexit live: Theresa May is facing defeat in the EU elections

Brexit: Mrs, May’s election CRISIS – Tories face OBLITERATION in EU vote as anger grows

THERESA May is facing a bruising EU Election with the Tories suffering a battering in the vote, according to the latest polls.

YouGov’s poll on April 10 to 11 – the first since Brexit was exteneded up until October 31 – shows Labour a clear leader with 24 percent of the public’s backing. The Conservatives are in second place at 16 percent, said the poll of 1,843 people. That is a steep drop from the 2017 general election.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which was officially launched on Friday, is third with 15 percent backing, and UKIP is on 14 percent.

Another new party, Change UK, which includes Chuka Umunna among its number, are on seven percent. The Liberal Democrats are on eight percent, the same as the Greens, while the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are both on six percent.

Talks between the Government and Labour are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding a Brexit agreement that will be acceptable to MPs.

The EU has insisted the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, rejected three times by MPs, cannot be renegotiated – but there is scope to strengthen the political declaration, a document setting out the parameters of the UK’s future relations with the EU, ahead of the new Brexit deadline.

10.15am update: May’s leadership rivals try to DODGE Brexit demanding she SORTS crisis before quitting if she can’t get her Brexit deal through Parliament.

Supporters of Cabinet contenders for the Number 10 hot seat made clear in private they do not want a leadership challenge before the first stage of Brexit is resolved, even if cross-party talks with Labour fail to yield positive results, sources told The Times.

They fear a summer leadership challenge before Theresa May can get her Brexit deal thorough Parliament would provide Brexiteer rivals Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab with vital momentum, both of whom have pledged to re-open talks with Brussels.

The Prime Minister has come under huge pressure following her decision to accept a deadline of October 31 from Brussels to extend the Article 50 process and to begin talks with Jeremy Corbyn as she desperately looks for ways to build support for her Brexit deal.

Mrs May has vowed to quit once this first stage of negotiations is complete, but one source backing a Cabinet rival told The Times their candidate would be “perfectly happy” for her to remain in office until December when, under the Tory leadership rules, she can next face a confidence vote.

The source said: “We want a contest after the first stage of Brexit has been sorted so we can talk about other things. Most leading contenders do not want an early challenge, even if that means waiting and supporting the Prime Minister until December.”

Brexit: Theresa May has been urged to remain as Prime Minister until later this year

10.00am update: Eight out of ten finance leaders expect environment to be worse after Brexit

UK businesses are expecting the long-term environment to decline as a result of the UK exiting the EU.

Deloitte warned that worries over the long-term impact of Brexit are mounting, with more than half of finance bosses in the UK expecting to halt recruitment and spending.

The accountancy firm’s latest survey interviewed 89 chief financial officers (CFOs), including 48 representing FTSE 100 companies and smaller firms on the FTSE 250.

Only found 13 percent of those surveyed were optimistc about the future of ther company.

More than half – 53% – also expect to reduce hiring staff because of Brexit.

A timeline explaining what could happen next in Brexit.

9.30am update: UK house prices are rising as buyers “bored” waiting for Brexit re-ignite the market

House prices rised 1.1 percent – or £3,447 – in the month to April 6, meaning the average price is now £305,449. But despite the spring bounce in April the figure is still 0.1% lower than a year ago.

Rightmove said the uncertain political backdrop continues to hold back the market, with new seller asking prices, the number of properties coming to market and the number of sales agreed all below this time last year.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: “The rise in new seller asking prices reflects growing activity as the market builds momentum, egged on by the arrival of Easter.“

Some sectors of the market and some parts of the country have strong buyer demand and a lack of suitable supply.

“However, on average, properties are still coming to the market at slightly lower prices than a year ago.

“It’s one of the most price-sensitive markets that we’ve seen for years, with buyers understandably looking for value or for homes with extra quality and appeal that suit their needs.”

Brexit live: UK house prices will rise as buys and sellers are “bored by brexit” (Image: GETTY)

9.25am: Nigel Evans warns May’will plead for another Brexit EXTENSION’

The Brexiteer MP warned the Prime Minister will return to Brussels “cap in hand” in October to demand the European Union agree to yet another Brexit extension.

Theresa May last week sparked the fury across the country after she agreed to a new Brexit extension until October 31 despite pledging not to sign up the country to stay inside the European Union past June 30.

Tory MP Nigel Evans reacted furiously to the news, predicting the Prime Minister will ask for a further delay to Brexit before the new deadline is due to expire in the Autumn.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Evans said: “We’re still in the European Union and the can has been kicked down the road towards Halloween.

“I can see us on October 30, Theresa May going back to Brussels, cap in hand yet again, asking ‘can we stay until March 2020?’ The whole thing is absolutely preposterous.

“She went to Brussels, basically cap in hand but her hands tied behind her back at the same time. Brussels saw all of this, they saw the weakness of Theresa May.”

Brexit: Mrs May has extended Article 50 to October – to the fury of Brexiteer Tory MPs.

9.05am update: Rees-Mogg launches attack on ‘foolish’ Lammy after he compares Brexiteers to NAZIS

Jacob Rees-Mogg has lashed out at David Lammy after the Labour MP compared the Brexit-backing European Research Group to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

compared the Brexit-backing European Research Group to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

The prominent Brexiteer and chair of ERG said he felt sorry for the Labour MP following his controversial comments which made him “look foolish”.

In a blistering attack, Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Lammy’s comments were “unbalanced” and would “damage his reputation”.

He tweeted: “I feel sorry for Mr Lammy, comparing a Parliamentary ginger group with an organisation and creed that killed six million Jewish people makes him look foolish and his comments unbalanced.

“It damages his reputation.”

Brexit: Mr Rees-Mogg said he felt “sorry” for David Lammy following his shock comments

8.53am update: Cross-party brexit talks are “more constructive” than people think

Jeremy hunt has said talks between Mrs May’s Government and the Labour Party to agree to a plan are more constructive than people think,

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio: “Talks we are having with Labour are detailed and I think more constructive than people have thought.

“They are more detailed and more constructive than people had been expecting on both sides. But we don’t know if they are going to work.”

Meetings between ministers and their opposite numbers from Labour are due to continue this week, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Sunday – but it has not been confirmed if the talks will resume today. 

8.30am update: Hammond mocked Tory peers for engaging in “suicide pact”

Philip Hammond mocked prominent Tory peers for engaging in a “suicide pact” during failed bids to beat Theresa May to the Tory leadership.

Brexit: Mr Hunt said that cross-party talks had been “constructive”

The Daily Telegraph reported Mr Hammond used a speech in the US on Friday to say Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson had formed an “unintended suicide pact” in the 2016 leadership contest.

The Chancellor said that Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom had effectively “knifed herself” during the race to become Prime Minister, according to the newspaper.

Mrs May is facing calls to quit and trigger a new leadership contest, with ex-cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith saying she should stand down as early as next month.

Mr Johnson hit back at David Lammy after the Labour MP defended comparing some Tory peers to the Nazis.

The remarks came as Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, Mrs May’s defacto deputy, said talks with Labour on trying to end the deadlock would continue over the Easter parliamentary recess. But discussions are not expected to resume on Monday, according to Labour sources.

Referring to the leadership battle, the newspaper reported Mr Hammond as saying: “If you remember last time this happened in 2016, Gove and Johnson knifed each other in an unintended suicide pact.

Brexit: Mrs, May's election CRISIS - Tories face OBLITERATION in EU vote as anger grows
Brexit: Hammond mocked Tory peers for engaging in a “suicide pact” over failed leadership bids

“Which left just Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. And then Andrea Leadsom knifed herself in a private suicide pact and Theresa May inherited the prime ministership without anybody casting a single vote.”

8.20am update: Hunt to tell Japan business leaders UK is focused on avoiding no deal

Jeremy Hunt is using a visit to Japan to tell business leaders that the UK is focused on avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

Following withdrawal from the EU being delayed until October 31, Mr Hunt will stress on Monday that Britain is seeking “tariff-free frictionless trade” with the bloc.

As well as meeting Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Hunt is also visiting a Tokyo high school to help teach English.

The Foreign Secretary will “update them on EU exit developments, and reassure them that UK Government is focused on avoiding a no-deal Brexit and on agreeing a deal which that will ensure tariff-free frictionless trade between the EU and the UK”.

Mr Hunt, who has previously worked in Japan, intends to promote English as the “language of opportunity” on the trip.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Hunt said: “I’m privileged to be able to visit Japan as Foreign Secretary and see how that shared culture is inspiring the next generation. The UK has always been an outward-looking global power. That cannot change after Brexit. I look forward to our relationship with Japan getting even closer in the years after we leave the EU.”

Dirtiest Tory leadership battle begins amid war over Brexit – with Conservative Party’s future at stake

While Westminster has been fixated on Theresa May’s battle with Brussels over her Brexit a deal, a battle already being billed as the dirtiest of a generation is playing out away from public view in Parliament.

At stake is the future of both Britain’s future outside of the European Union – and the Conservative Party as a major electoral force.

Up to a dozen senior Tory MPs are actively mulling whether to mount leadership campaigns, to replace Mrs May when she quits – as expected – later this year.

One MP says: “Everybody is trying to gauge what support they have got.” Another MP says: “It is early days – this is a slippery electorate… It is not as though there is a runaway favourite.”

And given the wide open nature of the field, it is hardly a surprise the teams are drawing up “war books” about one another according to one adviser, shining a light on controversial historic articles, details of alleged sexual peccadilloes and unsavoury claims about their partners.

One adviser said that “without a doubt” the campaigning in the upcoming Tory leadership campaign will be the dirtiest for decades. “The biggest feature in Westminster is people looking for dirt on other people

“They are all at it [war books]. Everyone is going on about the war books, who has got what. It is already quite a nasty campaign.

“The main focus at the minute is how you can take people down – it is not a battle of ideas yet. It is people trying to knee cap each other.”

The battle for votes in the tearooms and corridors is already fully underway. While none of the leadership teams will confirm numbers Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, is seen in the “unenviable position” of being the early front runner with one observer saying he has pledges of between 70 and 80 Tory MPs.

Both Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, and Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, are said to have won the unofficial backing of 40 MPs.

Further behind is Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, who is sitting on a “core support of 25 MPs without having to work” rising to – according to his cheerleaders – as many as 70 MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG chairman.

Each is tailoring his or her offering to MPs who have to whittle the field down to just two candidates to go in front of the membership.

Mr Hunt – who is in Japan this weekend on official business when he will demonstrate his linguistic skills by teaching English to Japanese students – is emphasising a “compassionate Conservatism”, saying the Tories must show they are not just a “money, money, money party” but have a “social mission” as well.

But his rivals are already describing him as the “establishment candidate” who is likely to pick up the support of Number 10. Plenty of observers say this could damage his chances among MPs furious about the Brexit talks.

Mr Javid, an arch-Thatcherite, has been trying to convince MPs to back him by emphasising his social justice credentials, built around the importance of the family at a dinner held by the Social Justice Coalition in the Commons last Monday, coupled with his experience of four big Cabinet jobs.

Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson have both reportedly addressed the same dinner some weeks earlier. One friend of Mr Javid said the Home Secretary had “aced it and Jeremy Hunt was uninspiring”.

MPs who back Mr Raab, whose anti-EU credentials cannot be questioned, stress his support for the core Tory values of helping others to get on through determination and hard-work, while building a fairer society.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s team are hanging his appeal on his popularity outside of the M25 – pointing out how former Labour leader Tony Blair said a fortnight ago that he was the Tory politician who could beat Jeremy Corbyn.

One supporting MP said: “He can deliver us Brexit and a victory. Boris is that person. He is the sort of person you can turn to in a crisis. When we get him to the members, he is going to win.”

Other outsiders in the leadership race are more forthcoming in their policy plans, perhaps in a bid to attract attention.

Last week Matt Hancock, the rising star Health Secretary, raised eyebrows by calling for a return to modern-day patriotism with an appeal to Tories “to sound like we actually like living in this country”.

That came after Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last weekend called for party members to be given votes on policy motions at the annual party conference, while also questioning the spiralling costs of the HS2 scheme

The large number of possible candidates – Michael Gove, the Environment secretary, is considering running, while James Cleverly and former chief whip Mark Harper are mulling standing – means talk soon turns to a Tory version of the online dating app Tinder where MPs have to swipe Left or swipe Right to find their ideal running mate.

Mr Johnson is already understood to be eyeing up an alliance with Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions secretary, who can bring with her other Remain-supporting MPs. Donors are said to be keen on the union of the two socially-liberal Conservatives.

However sources close to Ms Rudd made clear she has not decided who to back, but she will not back any candidate who has considered leaving the EU without a deal to be “a viable option” – and may conceivably run herself.

Ms Rudd has formed the “One Nation” group of MPs within the Tory party in part to ensure MPs could back a leader who will develop “a plan for domestic issues” to take the party beyond Brexit.

Mr Hunt is rumoured to have offered the position of foreign secretary to either Penny Mordaunt, the International Development secretary, or Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee.

A source close to Mr Hunt denied he had offered jobs to leadership rivals.  The source said: “He hasn’t offered any jobs to anyone, and it’s not his style to stoop to this kind of briefing against colleagues.” He added that Mr Hunt had been well received at the social justice dinner.

All the frontrunners are lining up advisers. Mr Javid has signed up Matthew Elliott, the former chief executive of Vote Leave, while former Tory MP James Wharton is backing Mr Johnson.

Mr Raab is being supported by Paul Stephenson, another well-respected former Vote Leave executive, while Mr Gove, who has still not been forgiven by many Brexiteers for pulling out of Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2016, is being advised by Henry Newman, a former aide who runs the Open Europe thinktank.

Mel Stride, a Treasury minister who is backing Mr Gove, has shown MPs pie charts purporting to show that he would have broad support across the country. One MP claimed Mr Stride had said the data showed that Mr Gove was the only candidate who could beat Mr Johnson.

Part of the problem is that Mrs May has only committed to leaving once the Withdrawal Agreement is passed – which could happen anytime between now and at least October – making it hard for MPs to know when to start campaigning formally.

One adviser says: “It is a phoney war at the moment – no one knows when it is going to start or how long it is going to be.

“So everyone is unsure about the pace of when to attack things. It is like being in a horse rate and not knowing where the finishing line is or when the start is.”

What is clear is that the Tory party cannot choose a leader who cannot win an election against an Opposition leader like Jeremy Corbyn.

One Brexit-supporting Conservative MP says: “This is existential. Getting this next choice right is absolutely fundamental to our chances of forming the next Government. More importantly it is very likely to be fundamental to our chances of delivering Brexit.”

Sunderland is a traditional Labour strongholds where working class disaffection helped swing the referendum towards Brexit

Weary frustration and cynicism take hold in UK’s Brexit heartland

Leave-voting Sunderland is ‘sick’ of delays with many preferring any form of exit to current limbo

Like many of Sunderland’s older inhabitants, William Hughes worked for most of his life down the coal pits.

But he was in the minority when the city on England’s north-east coast voted to leave the EU in 2016 and describes himself as “frightened” by the turmoil that Brexit has unleashed.

For Mr Hughes, whose life was upended when the coal mines were closed in the 1990s and who is anxious that jobs will go again, this week’s decision to put Britain’s departure on ice is a relief.

“They said how much money we would save [by leaving the EU] but they didn’t say how much we would lose,” he said.

The former miner may still be outnumbered by Leave supporters in the city, whose 62 per cent vote for Brexit early on the night of the referendum heralded Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

William Hughes: ‘They said how much money we would save [by leaving the EU] but they didn’t say how much we would lose’

But, although the UK’s departure is now not scheduled until October 31, people on the streets of Sunderland have not responded to the delay with an outpouring of fury.

Instead, sentiment in the bellwether city is a mixture of weary frustration and cynicism. While there is little enthusiasm for the compromise exit deal that prime minister THERESA MAY, has struck with Brussels, some Sunderland inhabitants seemed to prefer any form of Brexit to the current limbo.

“We are sick of it,” said Christine, from nearby Gateshead, a retiree shopping in Sunderland’s central precinct. “This means that we are going to have to listen to it all over again.”

In fact, the debate is only likely to intensify. Because of the delay, Britain is set to hold elections to the European Parliament next month — almost three years after its vote to leave. Pro- and anti-Brexit parties are already mobilising.

“People voted to come out and we should be out by now,” said Christine’s friend Karen, who compared the prime minister’s management of Brexit to selecting a footballer from Sunderland to play for the city’s bitter nearby rivals, Newcastle. During the referendum campaign, Mrs May was a lukewarm supporter of Remain.

“Theresa May needs a bomb up her backside,” said Karen, comparing the prime minister with one of her most celebrated Conservative predecessors. “At least Margaret Thatcher stuck by what she said.”

Sunderland has been hit hard by industrial decline in the past 40 years
Shoppers Christine and Karen are increasingly frustrated over the delays to Brexit

Sunderland is one of many traditional Labour strongholds where working class disaffection helped swing the referendum towards Brexit.

The area has been abandoned by successive governments “like a rotten tangerine”, said Adam Perkin, who repainted lines on roads travelled by the Olympic torch when Britain hosted the games in 2012. He now works in security in Sunderland’s shopping precinct.

He strongly backs EU membership — but is aghast at MPs’ three rejections of Mrs May’s exit deal — which forced the prime minister to ask the bloc for the Brexit delay.

“The last person who went to parliament with the right intentions was Guy Fawkes,” Mr Perkin joked, referring to the Catholic conspirator who tried to blow up Westminster in 1605.

Sunderland hosts the largest Nissan factory in Europe — one reason why its vote to leave caused so much attention.

A good number of workers at the facility, which employs 6,000 people from across the north-east, celebrated the referendum victory in 2016. But several leaving the plant on Thursday said there was real anxiety now about potential job losses. Nissan has already announced it will not produce a promised new sport utility vehicle at Sunderland, partly because of concerns about future ties with the EU.

“Brexit needs to be sorted out properly. It is causing a lot of division and unrest,” said one Nissan employee smoking outside the plant, who declined to give his name. “The problem is that nobody seems to know what sorting it out means.”

Sunderland hosts the largest Nissan factory in Europe © EPA
Labour MP Bridget Phillipson: ‘For all the frustration that Brexit has not happened yet, there is also frustration that there is no time to talk about tackling poverty, about creating jobs’

Some recent polls have indicated that, because of the travails of Mrs May’s deal, opinion is hardening across the UK on both sides of the Brexit debate — between those who want to stay in the EU and proponents of leaving without an agreement.

In such a climate, Bridget Phillipson, the Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, has been criticised by some constituents for promoting a second referendum to break the deadlock.

Ms Phillipson expressed great relief at the decision to delay Brexit — and to avoid a no-deal exit this weekend — an outcome she says would have had a “devastating and irreparable impact” on the north-east’s economy.

“I am so glad we have avoided that but we still haven’t resolved anything,” she added. “For all the frustration that Brexit has not happened yet, there is also frustration that there is no time to talk about tackling poverty, about creating jobs,” she said.

Labour, which has called for a relatively soft Brexit and suggested a second referendum, is leading in the initial polls for the European Parliament elections. But Ms Phillipson conceded that voters might balk at the prospect of the contest.

She argued it was an opportunity for Labour to make a “patriotic” case for maintaining close ties to its neighbours. That will be a tough sell to some of her constituents.

Weary frustration and cynicism take hold in UK’s Brexit heartland
Sunderland has a relatively small immigrant population © Mark Pinder/FT
Paul Ellis: ‘We have got an extension till Halloween. It’s a joke — no English person likes all this waiting around’ © Mark Pinder/FT

Paul Ellis, an unemployed construction worker who spent years on sites in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, said the delay to Brexit was like going back to square one three years later.

“We have got an extension till Halloween. It’s a joke — no English person likes all this waiting around,” he said, before pointing to two seagulls perched stationary on a nearby parked car:

“That’s Brexit,” he said. “Going nowhere.”

Theresa May: "If we want to get on with leaving, we need to start this process soon."

Brexit: Theresa May defends 31 October delay to MPs

Theresa May has told MPs it remains her “priority” to deliver Brexit, defending the decision to delay the UK’s exit from the EU.

The new deadline of 31 October means the UK is likely to have to hold European Parliament elections in May.

The prime minister said that if the deal agreed with the EU was passed, the UK could leave the EU “as soon as possible”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the latest delay a “diplomatic failure”.

The prime minister promised to pursue an “orderly” Brexit, adding that the “whole country” was “frustrated”.

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.

The government said on Thursday it would “continue to make all necessary preparations” for a no-deal Brexit, after it was reported that departments had stood down their planning.

A government source said “plans will evolve and adapt” but would not stop, while the chance of leaving the EU without an agreement remained.

The source added that a leaked message referring to the “winding down” of no deal preparation related only to Operation Yellowhammer, the contingency planning operation based on worst-case scenarios – and not no-deal planning in general.

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.”

And she told MPs that the UK would hold full EU membership rights during the extension, saying the country “would continue to be bound by all our ongoing obligations as a member state, including the duty of sincere co-operation”.

Talks with Labour

The government is continuing to hold talks with Labour aimed at achieving a consensus on how to break the deadlock in Parliament.

Mrs May and Mr Corbyn had a “short meeting” on Thursday, Labour said.

Jeremy Corbyn says the Article 50 delay is a “diplomatic failure”

In Parliament, Mrs May said: “Reaching an agreement will not be easy, because to be successful it will require both sides to make compromises.

“But however challenging it may be politically, I profoundly believe that in this unique situation where the House is deadlocked, it is incumbent on both front benches to seek to work together to deliver what the British people voted for.”

In response, Mr Corbyn said: “The second extension in the space of a fortnight represents not only a diplomatic failure but is another milestone in the government’s mishandling of the entire Brexit process.”

He added: “The prime minister has stuck rigidly to a flawed plan and now the clock has run down, leaving Britain in limbo and adding to the deep uncertainty of business, workers and people all across this country.”

Mr Corbyn said cross-party talks were “serious, detailed and ongoing”, but warned that the government would “have to compromise”.

If no agreement was possible, he said: “We believe all options should remain on the table, including the option of a public vote.”

Presentational grey line

What happens next?

Shortly – Talks continue between the Conservatives and Labour on how to end the Brexit impasse

23 April – MPs return from Parliament’s Easter recess

2 May – Local elections take place in England and Northern Ireland

23 May – European Parliament elections are scheduled to happen in the UK, if MPs do not back Theresa May’s agreement with the EU in time to avert them

31 October – The UK leaves the EU, unless MPs back the withdrawal agreement in advance of this deadline

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Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, urged Mrs May to use the extra time to hold a second EU referendum.

Brexit: Theresa May defends 31 October delay to MPs
After Bill Cash calls on her to resign, Theresa May replies: “I think you know the answer to that.”

“It’s now a very real possibility that we can remain in the European Union,” he said.

“As of today, there are 204 days until the new Brexit deadline on the 31 October, so will the prime minister now remove the ridiculous excuse that there isn’t enough time to hold a second referendum with remain on the ballot paper?”

And Brexiteer Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash accused the prime minister of “abject surrender” to the EU in allowing the delay and said she should resign.

Before the Brussels summit, Mrs May had told leaders she wanted to move the UK’s exit date from this Friday to 30 June, with the option of leaving earlier if Parliament ratified her agreement.

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What was agreed in Brussels?

  • A Brexit extension “only as long as necessary” and “no longer than 31 October” to allow for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement
  • The UK “must hold the elections to the European Parliament” and if it fails to do this, the UK will leave on 1 June
  • The European Council reiterates there can be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement negotiations
  • Read the EU’s conclusions here.
Presentational grey line

European Council President Donald Tusk said future developments were “entirely in the UK’s hands”, adding: “They can still ratify the withdrawal agreement, in which case the extension can be terminated.”

Mr Tusk said the UK could also rethink its strategy or choose to “cancel Brexit altogether”, but urged: “Please do not waste this time.”

The EU had been split over the length of delay to offer the UK, and by law its other 27 member states had to reach a unanimous decision.

Brexit flow chart

#Brexit: How do #European elections work?

The European Union (EU) has agreed a Brexit delay until the end of October and preparations have started to take part in the European elections on 23 May.

Prime Minister Theresa May says if a deal gets through Parliament before that date, the UK will not participate. But it seems likely that the UK will still be in the EU at that point.

What is the European Parliament?

The European Parliament is directly elected by EU voters.

It is responsible, along with the Council of Ministers from member states, for making laws and approving budgets.

It also plays a role in the EU’s relations with other countries, including those wishing to join the bloc.

Its members represent the interests of different countries and different regions within the EU.

How are its members elected?

Every five years, EU countries go to the polls to elect members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Each country is allocated a set number of seats, roughly depending on the size of its population. The smallest, Malta (population: around half a million) has six members sitting in the European Parliament while the largest, Germany (population: 82 million) has 96.

At the moment there are 751 MEPs in total and the UK has 73.

Candidates can stand as individuals or they can stand as representatives of one of the UK’s political parties.

Once elected, they represent different regions of the country, again according to population. The north-east of England and Northern Ireland have three MEPs each while the south-east of England, including London, has 18.

While most UK MEPs are also members of a national party, once in the European Parliament they sit in one of eight political groups which include MEPs from across the EU who share the same political affiliation.

Bar chart of number of seats won in European Parliament elections in 2014 - UKIP came out top followed by Labour then Conservatives

Member states can run elections to the European Parliament according to their own national laws and traditions, but they must stick to some common rules. MEPs must be elected using a system of proportional representation – so, for example, a party which gains a third of the votes wins a third of the seats.

Turnout in the UK for European Parliament elections is low both by EU standards and by the standards of other UK elections.

The last time they were held in 2014, 36% of those eligible to vote did so, compared with 43% in the EU as a whole.

That compares with 66% turnout at the following year’s general election.

In 2016, 56% of the electorate voted in the Scottish Parliament elections, 45% in the Welsh Assembly and 54% in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In local elections in England, turnout varies depending largely on what other elections are taking place on the same day, sometimes dipping as low as the European elections turnout and sometimes rising close to the level of general elections.

Elections to European Parliament

Source: European Parliament

How much do elections cost?

The last time European elections were held in 2014, the UK spent £109m on them.

The main costs were running the poll itself (securing polling stations and venues to run counts) and mailing out candidate information and polling cards.

The government has said that if the UK does not end up participating in the 2019 elections, it will reimburse local returning officers – the people responsible for running elections – for any expenses already paid.

What happens if the UK leaves?

The EU is planning to reduce the overall number of seats in the parliament from 751 to 705 when the UK leaves.

There will be a reallocation of 27 of the UK’s seats to 14 other member states that are currently underrepresented. And the rest will be set aside with the possibility of being allocated to any new member states that join in the future.

The EU has already passed legislation to do this, but it does not take effect until the UK leaves.

The number of seats is capped in law at 751.

The European Commission had advised that as long as the UK made a decision to take part in the European elections by mid-April, this reallocation would be reversed.

But what if the UK elects MEPs and then passes a deal to leave the EU?

In that case, the UK MEPs would not take their seats, leaving vacancies.

The House of Commons Library says that extra MEPs could potentially be elected on “stand-by” in some member states but not take up their seats until the UK leaves the EU.

Theresa May sought a 30 June deadline - but that was rejected

#Brexit: What will six-month extension mean? Short and long story

It is a longer delay than UK Prime Minister Theresa May asked for, but shorter than most EU leaders wanted.

By extending the Brexit deadline to 31 October, they have prompted headlines of “Halloween Brexit” and fuelled controversy over UK participation in next month’s European elections.

So what will happen next? I’ve boiled it down to a short summary – and a longer analysis.

The story in 100 words

With the clock ticking again, Theresa May wants Parliament to finally agree on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU preferably before 23 May, to avoid the UK taking part in elections to the European Parliament.

Her plan is first to try to get a cross-party agreement with the opposition Labour Party.

If that fails, there could be a series of votes in Parliament on alternatives to her deal, such as holding a second referendum. But agreement has so far proved elusive, so it’s entirely possible the UK will be back where it started at the end of extra time.

The story in 500 words

The granting of six more months looks like an extension of the UK’s Brexit crisis, rather than an imminent end to the uncertainty.

The two big questions now are:

  • Can UK politicians reach a consensus on how to leave the EU, after more than two years of failing to do so?
  • Can Mrs May survive as prime minister and leader of the governing Conservative Party, after yet another delay to Britain’s departure?

On the first question there has to be little reason for optimism.

Britain’s politicians are now broadly divided into three camps:

  • Those enthusiastic “Brexiteers” on the right of the Conservative Party who want to leave the EU sooner rather than later, even if that means doing so without any kind of deal
  • Those who see Brexit as a question of damage limitation and who would prefer the UK to stay close to the EU after departure
  • Those who now see Brexit as such a disaster they want it reversed altogether, either by another referendum, or if necessary by Parliament simply calling a halt to the whole process itself.

As time has gone on and tempers have frayed, MPs have, if anything, hardened in their positions rather than become more willing to compromise. So finding agreement won’t be easy in the months ahead.

Adam Fleming explains how the EU agreed a Brexit delay.

Complicating what is undoubtedly the UK’s most profound political crisis since World War Two, Brexit is also an issue that provokes powerful divisions not just between the two main parties, Conservative and Labour, but within them too.

As to Mrs May’s survival, it’s hard to say. There is now turmoil in the Conservative Party.

Its pro-Brexit wing is furious with Mrs May for the delays to the UK’s departure and her attempts to reach out to Labour and the possibility, therefore, of a Brexit that would leave the UK too closely tied to the EU for their tastes.

But moderate Conservatives are in turn furious with the Brexiteers for what they see as their utter unreasonableness. I can assure you the language they actually use about their colleagues is far stronger, but unfit for this website.

So even if Mrs May were to go, her replacement would face the same problem: how to meet the massive geopolitical challenge of charting Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and therefore its place in the world, while faced with a bitterly divided party and Parliament.

Labour MPs going into Brexit talks with government, 9 Apr 19
Many Conservatives dislike Mrs May’s Brexit talks with Labour MPs (pictured)

So what happens next?

Anyone hoping this extension will be boring, and that UK politics will return to some kind of normality, is likely to be disappointed.

Rather, what follows is likely to be more of the same: an angry stalemate fought against the backdrop of a profoundly divided country more sceptical than ever about the very fitness of the political system.

There is an increasing sense inside Parliament and beyond that things cannot go on as they are.

Here, in no particular order, are the options over the next six months:

Mrs May’s deal, a different deal, no deal, a government collapse followed by a general election or a second referendum and further delay.

But ask any British politician how all this ends and they will tell you they simply don’t know. It’s perfectly possible that by 31 October they still won’t have an answer.

May on Brexit extension: 'The UK should have left the EU by now'

#European Union leaders have granted the UK a six-month extension to Brexit, after five hours of talks in Brussels.

Brexit: UK and EU agree delay to 31 October

The new deadline – 31 October – averts the prospect of the UK having to leave the EU without a deal on Friday, as MPs are still deadlocked over a deal.

European Council president Donald Tusk said his “message to British friends” was “please do not waste this time”.

Theresa May, who had wanted a shorter delay, said the UK would still aim to leave the EU as soon as possible.

The UK must now hold European elections in May, or leave on 1 June without a deal.

Prime Minister Mrs May had earlier told leaders she wanted to move the UK’s exit date from this Friday to 30 June, with the option of leaving earlier if her withdrawal agreement was ratified by Parliament.

Mr Tusk emerged from the talks – and a subsequent meeting with Mrs May – to address reporters at a news conference at 02:15 local time (01:15 BST).

He said: “The course of action will be entirely in the UK’s hands: They can still ratify the withdrawal agreement, in which case the extension can be terminated.”

Tusk on Brexit extension: “Please do not waste this time”

Mr Tusk said the UK could also rethink its strategy or choose to “cancel Brexit altogether”.

He added: “Let me finish with a message to our British friends: This extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it’s still enough to find the best possible solution.

“Please do not waste this time.”

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What was agreed?

  • A Brexit extension “only as long as necessary” and “no longer than 31 October” to allow for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement
  • The UK “must hold the elections to the European Parliament” and if it fails to do this, the UK will leave on 1 June
  • The European Council reiterates there can be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement negotiations

Read the EU’s conclusions here.

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “There will probably be a European election in the UK – that might seem a bit odd, but rules are rules and we must respect European law and then we will see what happens.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivering a press conference at 02:00
Mr Juncker – who is due to leave his job on 1 November – joked that if there is a late-night meeting on the 31 October he “may have to leave at midnight”

Mrs May then spoke to reporters at 02:45 local time (01:45 BST). She said that although the delay extends until 31 October, the UK can leave before then if MPs pass her withdrawal deal.

“I know that there is huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension,” she said.

“The UK should have left the EU by now and I sincerely regret the fact that I have not yet been able to persuade Parliament to approve a deal.”

She added: “I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy, or there is a simple way to break the deadlock in Parliament. But we have a duty as politicians to find a way to fulfil the democratic decision of the referendum, deliver Brexit and move our country forward.

“Nothing is more pressing or more vital.”

The PM said that the UK “will continue to hold full membership rights and obligations [of the EU]” during the delay.

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Trick or treat? Halloween deadline is both

You couldn’t quite make it up. The new Brexit deadline is, you guessed it, Halloween.

So to get all the terrible metaphors about horror shows, ghosts and ghouls out of the way right now, let’s consider straight away some of the reasons why this decision is a treat in one sense, but could be a trick too.

A treat? First and most importantly, the EU has agreed to put the brakes on. We will not leave tomorrow without a deal.

The prime minister’s acceptance that leaving the EU without a formal arrangement in place could be a disaster won out.

And there are quite a few potential tricks. This new October deadline might not solve very much at all.

This could, although I hate to say it, just make way for months of extra gridlock before the UK and the EU find themselves back here in a similar situation in the autumn.

The EU had been split over the length of delay to offer the UK and by law they had to reach a unanimous decision. Although other EU countries backed a longer delay, French President Emmanuel Macron pushed for a shorter extension.

The BBC’s Mr Ben Rory, said that the date of 31 October was an indication that Mr Macron had “won the day”. as his was the most hard-line voice in the room.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Macron said: “For me, this is a good solution.”

He said EU leaders had partly decided to back a delay because Mrs May had explained she had started talks with the opposition party – “a first in decades in the British political system”.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel looks back at French President Emmanuel Macron as they speak to the media
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had argued for a longer delay

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said the extension gave the UK time “to come to a cross-party agreement”.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted her “relief” that the UK wouldn’t be “crashing out” on Friday, adding that “allowing people to decide if they still want to leave is now imperative”.

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Risk of no-deal postponed

Fudge and can-kicking are the EU-familiar words that spring to mind at the end of this Brexit summit.

After all the drama and speculation leading up to the meeting, effectively all that happened here is that the threat of a no-deal Brexit has been postponed for another six months.

Time enough for the EU to hold European parliamentary elections, choose a new president of the European Commission and pass a new budget – without EU leaders having to keep one eye at least on the day-to-day dramas in the House of Commons.

Despite EU leaders’ rhetoric beforehand, they granted this extension without hearing a convincing plan of Brexit action from Theresa May.

In the summit conclusions there is no evidence of the punitive safeguards mooted to ensure the UK “behaves itself” – refraining from blocking EU decisions – as long as it remains a club member.

Yes, EU leaders worry about who might replace Theresa May as prime minister. Yes, they’re concerned these six months could fly past with the UK as divided as ever but their message to the UK tonight was: “We’ve done our bit. Now you do yours. It’s up to you. Please use the time well.”

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Mrs May was called back into the summit after EU leaders had talked for five hours to find their compromise solution.

Before that, Mrs May had given a one-hour presentation putting forward her argument for the extension date to be 30 June.

This was the second time Mrs May has gone to the EU to ask for a Brexit extension.

So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year and the House of Commons has also voted against leaving without a deal.

One of most contentious parts of the plan is the Irish backstop – an insurance policy that aims to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.

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May’s next steps

  • On Thursday, the PM will make a statement in the House of Commons
  • Talks between the government and Labour are also due to continue
  • Also on Thursday, Parliament will break up for its Easter break until 23 April – although further cross-party talks are expected to be held.

Brexit: Trick or treat? 31 October Halloween deadline is both

Trick or treat? You couldn’t quite make it up.

It is approaching 03:00 GMT – it’s weird enough at this time of day to be about to see Theresa May speak.

And the new Brexit deadline, is, you guessed it, Halloween.

So to get all the terrible metaphors about horror shows, ghosts and ghouls out of the way right now, let’s consider straight away some of the reasons why this decision is a treat in one sense, but could be a trick too.

A treat? First and most importantly, the EU has agreed to put the brakes on. We will not leave tomorrow without a deal.

The prime minister’s acceptance that leaving the EU without a formal arrangement in place could be a disaster won out.

She has at least avoided the possible turmoil of leaving with no arrangement, which for so long Theresa May claimed to countenance.

Theresa May leaves the European Council summit after agreeing to extend Brexit until 31 October

The UK now has nearly six more months to work out exactly how it wants to leave the EU.

Of course it gives those trying to block the departure more time to try to make that happen too.

But in its simplest sense, the prime minister asked for a delay so that she didn’t open Pandora’s Box.

The EU eventually said yes, even on a different timetable. Theresa May is of course likely to still try to move as quickly as possible.

And there are quite a few potential tricks.

This new October deadline might not solve very much at all.

A Halloween pumpkin with a scary face in a dark room

It’s longer than those who wanted a short delay hoped. So there won’t be immediate pressure on the prime minister’s current plan (which might be a vain hope) of getting out of this – finding common ground with the Labour party.

Certainly, everyone in politics involved in Brexit could do with a breather, but a pause of such duration might just enable more delay, as the chance to quicken the tempo fades away.

And with only limited expectations for that process anyway, it’s likely sooner or perhaps later that the prime minister will be back in Parliament again asking MPs to coalesce around an option that could command a majority that could last a while.

Again, without time pressure, it’s not clear why Parliament would suddenly be in a rush to agree. That’s why it’s not entirely surprising to hear the EU Council president warn minutes after the agreement that the UK must not waste the extra time it’s been given.

Election or another referendum?

This could, although I hate to say it, just make way for months of extra gridlock before the UK and the EU find themselves back here in a similar situation in the autumn.

That’s why, potentially, an election might become the way out that few want is still possible.

And don’t be in any doubt that those in Parliament and outside pushing for another referendum, or to stop Brexit altogether, will use this opportunity to make their case more and more loudly.

Even Brexiteers in Cabinet, who are completely committed to the cause, acknowledge that the further away from the referendum in 2016, the weaker the mandate for departure becomes.

There is though, still time for a leadership contest in the Tory Party that would leave a new prime minister in charge, to find a new way out.

Even before the official confirmation of the decision came, one minister got in touch to say that now the prime minister can stay on “in name only” with a leadership contest getting going as early as just after Easter and a new leader in place by early summer.

Perhaps, by the time this new deadline approaches, someone else will be trying to untangle the mess.

If that happens, the EU, which deeply fears a more Eurosceptic leader, might just have played a trick on themselves.

May on Brexit extension: 'The UK should have left the EU by now'

#Brexit: #UK and #EU agree Brexit delay to 31 October

The UK and the EU have agreed a “flexible extension” of Brexit until 31 October, European Council president Donald Tusk has said.

Speaking after five hours of talks at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Tusk said his “message to British friends” was “please do not waste this time”.

Theresa May said the UK would still aim to leave the EU as soon as possible.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the UK must now hold European elections in May, or leave on 1 June without a deal.

The PM had earlier told leaders she wanted to move the UK’s exit date from this Friday to 30 June, with the option of moving that date forward again if she can get her withdrawal agreement ratified by Parliament.

Mr Tusk emerged from the talks – and a subsequent meeting with Mrs May – to address reporters at a news conference at 02:15 local time (01:15 BST).

Tusk on Brexit extension: ‘Please do not waste this time’

He said: “The course of action will be entirely in the UK’s hands: they can still ratify the withdrawal agreement, in which case the extension can be terminated.”

He said the UK could also rethink its strategy or choose to revoke Article 50 and “cancel Brexit altogether”.

“Let me finish with a message to our British friends: This extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it’s still enough to find the best possible solution.

“Please do not waste this time.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “There will probably be a European election in the UK – that might seem a bit odd, but rules are rules and we must respect European law and then we will see what happens.”

Mrs May then spoke to reporters at 02:45 local time (01:45 BST) and said that, should Parliament ratify the withdrawal agreement in the first three weeks of May, the country would then not have to participate in European elections.

The PM said that, until her deal is approved, the UK “will continue to hold full membership rights and obligations”.

She added: “I know there is huge frustration from many people that I have had to request this extension.

“I sincerely regret the fact that I have not yet been able to persuade Parliament.”

The EU had been split over the length of delay to offer the UK and by law they had to reach a unanimous decision.

Mr Varadkar said the EU “will take stock” of the situation at the regular EU summit in June.

The BBC’s Mr Ben Rory, said that the extension to 31 October was an indication that French President Emmanuel Macron had “won the day” as his was the most hardline voice in the room.

Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat said the 31 October deadline was “sensible” as it “gives time to UK to finally choose its way”.

The new deadline is one day before the next European Commission President – the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker – takes office.

Mrs May was called back into the summit after EU leaders had talked for five hours to find their compromise solution.

Before that, Mrs May had given a one-hour presentation putting forward her argument for the extension date to be 30 June.

This was the second time Mrs May has gone to the EU to ask for a Brexit extension.

So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year and the House of Commons has also voted against leaving without a deal.

Ahead of meeting EU leaders, the UK PM is asked what she will do if they only grant a long extension.

#Brexit: May awaits #EU Brexit extension decision

Theresa May is waiting to hear the decision of the other 27 EU leaders, who are discussing her request for a short delay to Brexit.

Mrs May wants to postpone the UK’s exit date beyond this Friday to 30 June – but EU leaders are expected to offer a longer delay, with conditions.

The prime minister addressed the leaders for about an hour at the summit in Brussels, before leaving the room.

Earlier Mrs May said she “regrets” that the UK has not already left.

She said she had “been clear” with the EU that she is only seeking a short delay to Brexit.

The other EU leaders are discussing her proposal over dinner.

Ahead of the summit, European Council President Donald Tusk said that “neither side should be allowed to feel humiliated”, and urged the other 27 leaders to back a flexible extension of up to a year.

Mrs May said that the UK could leave the EU when a deal is ratified by Parliament, and so the exit date could be by 22 May – the day before the European Parliament elections.

Ahead of meeting EU leaders, the UK PM is asked what she will do if they only grant a long extension.

‘Vital night’ for PM

Analysts By Emmanuel Justice, Political Editor.

This is a huge moment, a really vital night for the prime minister, who for so long told us repeatedly she wanted to keep the option of leaving without a deal on the table.

But that has completely changed.

She now believes that would be a huge mistake, that that could be a complete disaster, and therefore tonight she is arguing to avoid that at almost any cost.

Tonight, whatever Theresa May says, the ultimate decision is with the European Union.

It is absolutely clear at the moment what happens next to her – and what happens next at home – is not in British hands tonight.

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Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk share a laugh over an iPad

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at 23:00 BST on Friday, 12 April.

If no extension is granted, the default position would be for the UK to leave on Friday without a deal.

So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year, but the Commons has also voted against leaving in a no-deal scenario.

EU leaders at the summit
EU leaders will discuss Theresa May’s proposal over dinner

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the “only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK” was for Parliament to agree the withdrawal agreement, and any extension “has to be useful and serve a purpose”.

“Our common purpose is to get the ratification of the withdrawal agreement,” he added.

Mrs May said she knew many people would be “frustrated that the summit is taking place at all”, but its purpose was “to agree a deal to enable us to leave the EU in that smooth and orderly way”.

She said the “extra time” to get a deal through Parliament was “in everybody’s interest”.

Asked if she would accept a longer extension than her proposal, she said: “I have asked for an extension to 30 June.

“But what is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify the withdrawal agreement, so we could leave on 22 May and start to build our brighter future.”

The PM has previously said she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June”.

Withdrawal agreement

Theresa May has agreed a deal with the EU on the terms of the UK’s departure. It does not determine the UK-EU future relationship. It does include how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period, and citizens’ rights. It also covers the so-called “backstop”, which ensures that no hard border exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit even if there’s no deal on the future relationship in place by the end of the transition period. 

No deal

A no-deal Brexit would mean the UK leaving the European Union and cutting ties immediately, with no agreement at all in place. If MPs do not approve Theresa May’s deal, and there is no alternative deal or move to delay or stop Brexit, the UK will leave with no deal on 29 March. The UK would follow World Trade Organization rules to trade with the EU and other countries, while trying to negotiate free-trade deals. 

Customs union

A trade agreement under which two or more countries do not put tariffs (taxes) on goods coming in from other countries in the union. The countries also decide to set the same tariff on goods entering from outside the union. The EU customs union includes EU member states and some small non-EU members and forbids members from negotiating trade agreements separately from the EU. Instead trade agreements are negotiated collectively.

WTO rules

If countries don’t have free-trade agreements, they usually trade with each other under rules set by the World Trade Organization. Each country sets tariffs – or taxes – on goods entering. For example, cars passing from non-EU countries to the EU are charged at 10% of their value. But tariffs on some agricultural products are much higher – dairy averages more than 35%. If the UK chooses to put no tariffs on goods from the EU, it must also have no tariffs on goods from every WTO member.

Backstop plan

Currently, there are no border posts, physical barriers or checks on people or goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The backstop is a measure in the withdrawal agreement designed to ensure that continues after the UK leaves the EU. It comes into effect only if the deal deciding the future relationship between the UK and EU is not agreed by the end of the transition period (31 December 2020). Until the deal on the future relationship is done, the backstop would keep the UK effectively inside the EU’s customs union but with Northern Ireland also conforming to some rules of the single market. Critics say a different status for Northern Ireland could threaten the existence of the United Kingdom and fear that the backstop could become permanent.

Irish border

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. After Brexit, it will become the only land border between the UK and the European Union.

EU officials have prepared a draft document for the leaders to discuss at the summit – but the end date of the delay has been left blank for the EU leaders to fill in once deliberations have ended.

BBC Europe Mr Ben Rory said the blank space showed EU leaders were still divided on the issue.

EU draft document
The draft document from EU officials leaves the date of an extension blank

BBC Europe correspondent Mr Ben Rory, said “much has been spelled out in advance”, including the condition that if the UK remains a member of the EU at the end of May it will have to hold elections to the European Parliament or be forced to leave immediately.

He added that, during the delay, the UK would be expected to commit to not disrupting EU business, such as the preparation of the next budget, and its influence “would be sharply reduced and its voice muted”.

‘Maintain unity’

Arriving in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders needed to discuss Mrs May’s request “openly and constructively”, and she had “no doubt” there would be unity over an extension.

She said: “The greatest interest for us is an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU and to maintain the unity of the 27.”

Leo Varadkar
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told reporters he was “very confident” an extension would be agreed

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he did not anticipate that the UK would leave the EU on Friday, and he was “very confident” that an extension will be agreed at the summit.

“What is still open is how long that extension will be and what the conditions will be,” he added.

“I believe the consensus here in Brussels and across the European Union will be to give the United Kingdom a little bit more time for the cross-party talks that are happening to conclude, and we can review the situation then in a few months’ time.”

But French President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing is settled, and in particular no long extension”.

He said he was “impatient” to hear “clear proposals” from Mrs May, and leaders would need “a lot of calm, a lot of determination and a lot of sang-froid”.

President Macron added: “I believe deeply that we are carrying out a European rebirth, and I don’t want the subject of Brexit to get in the way of that.”