Following a meeting of EU Ambassadors, formal approval for a Brexit extension until 31 January 2020 has been announced by European Council President Donald Tusk. The approval announcement was immediately met with a letter of acceptance from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The approved period is being described as a “flextension” due to the additional provision that the exit date can be brought forward if agreed before the deadline date.
The approval had been expected for a number of days after the “new deal” put forward by Johnson failed to pass through the House of Commons. While it had been rumoured that some EU leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron were reluctant to grant another extension, no serious opposition to the extension was forthcoming.
The extension may preserve some of the momentum which appeared to have been building towards an agreed exit, which had developed from the agreed augmentation of the Irish Backstop. It also allows for a general election to take place in the UK. It is hoped that a new configuration of MPs might be able to approve a Brexit deal in the wake of repeated unsuccessful attempts to progress matters in the current fractured chamber.
The Conservative Party is heavily favoured to emerge once again as the party leading the next government, either by single party majority or through a minority government relying on the support of smaller groups. Once the new session of parliament resumes, it is anticipated that Johnson will once again attempt to have his deal approved in time for the new January deadline. The announcement will also likely serve as Donald Tusk’s final involvement as European Council President. His successor, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is due to take office on 1 December 2019.