EU states meet to discuss the status of Brexit

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk at the start of EU Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct 16, 2019.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk at the start of EU Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct 16, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (DPA) - European Union ambassadors are due to meet early on Sunday (Oct 20) to discuss a formal request by London to delay Brexit beyond the current Oct 31 deadline, after the British Parliament postponed a key vote on the withdrawal deal that was agreed last week.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is against delaying Brexit any further. However, he was legally compelled to request an extension on Saturday.

The demand was accompanied by a letter in which he spelled out his opposition, according to an EU source.

European Council President Donald Tusk received the two letters, as well as an accompanying note from British ambassador Tim Barrow, late on Saturday, the source said.

Earlier on Saturday, an EU diplomat said the bloc would "constructively review" any extension request. It could take several days for the remaining 27 member states to finalise their decision.

The British Lower House of Parliament, the House of Commons, voted by a 322-306 majority on Saturday to postpone its crucial vote on a new Brexit divorce deal agreed on Thursday between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union.

The move was aimed at preventing Britain from leaving the EU on Oct 31 without a transitional deal in place because the necessary legislation could not be ratified in time.

It is still possible, however, for the divorce deal to be ratified by the British and European Parliaments in time for an orderly Brexit on Oct 31.

Under the so-called withdrawal agreement, EU laws will continue to apply to Britain for a transitional period.

Without it, Brexit could lead to short-term chaos and unpredictability for citizens and businesses on both sides.