Senior Tories’ message for Theresa May: ‘It’s time to go’

Gove and Lidington both reported to have support to take over as UK prime minister.

Senior members of the Conservative Party have told the Cabinet that now is the time to get rid of Theresa May.

According to several reports in the British press Sunday, a number of names have been suggested as caretaker prime minister if May is ousted, including Michael Gove and David Lidington.

In the Telegraph, Nicky Morgan, a former Cabinet minister and Remain supporter, said of May: “Unfortunately, I think that what started off as qualities that people admired are the ones that now mean she’s not the flexible leader to find a way through this.

“I understand that it is difficult to say to someone that it’s time to go. But there are enough people around the Cabinet table who can step up … and she’s got to listen.”

In the same paper, former Brexit minister Steve Baker had a message for the Cabinet: “If they will not act now when are they ever going to be seen to step forward and how could they possibly persuade the country that they’re the great statesmen to take us forward?”

In the Mail, an unnamed “government source” said there is “complete unanimity” that May has to go, with Environment Secretary Michael Gove the “consensus choice” to replace her in Downing Street. Pro-Remain Cabinet ministers such as Chancellor Philip Hammond and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd are reported to have been backing Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington to take over from May.

David Davis, May’s first Brexit secretary, writes in the Telegraph that the EU treated the prime minister with “humiliating disdain” and if her deal doesn’t pass in parliament at the third time of asking, she should be prepared to leave the EU with no deal.

EU’s Brexit and China problems are intertwined

Britain and Beijing loom as potentially formidable, if very different, rivals.

EU leaders had planned to spend a summit dinner talking about an aggressive, potentially hostile, rival with aspirations of global economic and military power.

The surprise was it ended up being about Britain and not China.

This summit was not supposed to focus on Brexit at all, but rather the EU’s future in a tumultuous world. As it turned out the two issues are very much intertwined.

Thursday’s dinner ended up being all about Brexit, rather than Beijing as planned. But many of the concerns about competition from China, expressed by EU leaders when the postponed session finally took place Friday, echoed their worries about future competition with a newly sovereign U.K. It is these fears that have framed the bloc’s negotiating positions on Brexit.

Late Thursday night, Council President Donald Tusk steered leaders to a decision to postpone the Brexit deadline that achieved his own top goal — to keep open the possibility of a longer-term delay that just might lead to Britain staying in the EU.

Tusk said that the thought of the U.K. as a rival was too awful for him to contemplate.

Tusk’s persistence in harboring such hopes stems not so much from his personal affection for Britain — formed as a young Beatles fan in Communist Poland — even though that appreciation is genuine. “I am more pro-British than you, I think,” Tusk joked with a reporter from the U.K. Friday.

Rather, aides and associates said, it is based on his conviction that the post-Brexit relationship will not be a happy one of shared values and win-win economic ties.

Instead, he expects a competitive, even tense, rivalry in which the EU continues to serve as a punching bag for London and becomes a scapegoat for the inevitable problems, financial and otherwise, that will follow Britain’s departure.

“They will blame the EU for their misfortunes,” a senior official said, speaking anonymously to discuss Tusk’s private thinking. “There is no bright future after Brexit.”

EU leaders at the summit in Brussels | Stephanie Lecocq/EFE via EPA

Tusk’s apprehensions reflect a warning by former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair who told POLITICO last year that the U.K. after Brexit could well end up “a competitor to Europe, not an ally” in a situation that could be “very ugly.”

Tusk said at the summit’s closing news conference that the thought of the U.K. as a rival was too awful for him to contemplate.

“I am mentally not able to treat today equally the U.K. and China,” he said. “For me the U.K. is still a member of our family, not a rival.”

Fret on two fronts

But just as the EU frets about future relations with Britain, it is also grappling with a mix of apprehension — and grudging admiration — regarding China and other developing powerhouses.

European Union leaders worry about safeguarding intellectual property and demographic trends that clearly show Europe aging, shrinking and controlling a smaller and smaller share of the world economy. They also fret about disinformation, hacking and cyber-terrorism being used to target developed democracies.

“In a more unstable world, shaken by new global, technological and environmental realities, there is no doubt that only together can we set our own course and defend the strategic interests of the Union,” Tusk wrote to leaders in his invitation letter to the summit. “This is true whether we are talking about strengthening our economic base, combating unfair practices or tackling climate change. We will therefore discuss how to use all the levers at our disposal to safeguard the interests of our citizens and companies. China is a key global player in all these issues.”

Is it tougher investment screening that commands Beijing’s respect? Or warships of the Royal Navy patrolling in the South China Sea?

Unease in this age of worldwide geopolitical tumult certainly seemed to weigh on German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she intervened in Thursday’s emotional debate to rebuke leaders who seemed tempted to push for a no-deal outcome and eject the U.K.

Merkel, who is serving her fourth and final term and has begun a transfer of power in Germany, is facing threats of a trade war from U.S. President Donald Trump, an economy that shows signs of slowing, and surging populism across Europe. Her level of risk tolerance seems set at zero.

“Even if you don’t need the U.K., we need them,” Merkel said during the debate, according to two diplomats who described the exchange for POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook. In the moment, Merkel was admonishing Tusk for allowing the debate to dwell too long on the possibility of forcing the U.K. out without a deal. But her remark was viewed by observers as a message to French President Emmanuel Macron and others pushing a harder line.

Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing | Pool photo by Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

As it tries to chart its way in the world, the EU faces a fundamental question: Is the world’s foremost champion of multilateral soft power capable of ever being tough enough to assert its values and truly defend its interests?

Greece might say yes — but that was a family feud.

Russia might say no.

Britain and China will be making their own hard-headed power calculations  in the years ahead.

Is it tougher investment screening that commands Beijing’s respect? Or warships of the Royal Navy patrolling in the South China Sea?

Chided on China

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, kicking off the discussion on China on Friday, scolded leaders for not beginning the conversation years ago. According to a diplomat in the room, Juncker noted the absence of “reciprocity in commercial relations with China” and said “the EU was wrong to hope that China would respect human rights more when economic progress increases.”

In a sobering speech, Juncker said that there had been no progress on three deliverables agreed at an EU-China summit last year: opening on civil aviation; more favorable respect for geographic indications (premium EU food names); and a working group on reforming the World Trade Organization.

“The EU should be clear but more firm with China,” Juncker said, according to the diplomat, and he called for stricter investment screening that would potentially curtail China’s growing influence in European companies.

Although the Brexit can has been kicked, it has not travelled far down the road.

Standing with Tusk at the closing news conference, Juncker said he found it easier at the summit to discuss China than Britain. “Not because China is asking to join the European Union but because it’s not leaving the European Union,” he explained.

At times Juncker almost sounded like Trump in complaining about unfair trade practices. “Competition between China and the European Union is not fair,” he declared.

Brexit is likely to be settled long before relations with China could ever be brought fully into balance. Although the Brexit can has been kicked, it has not travelled far down the road.

Instead of following EU leaders’ advice, and requesting a new deadline before the European Parliament election starts on May 23, British Prime Minister Theresa May asked for Brexit to be postponed until June 30. And instead of offering a plan for what happens if MPs reject her deal for a third time, May simply expressed optimism that she would prevail — with no explanation of how, according to EU diplomats.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain’s PM Theresa May at a G20 meeting in Hamburg | Kay Nietfeld/AFP via Getty Images

As a result, EU officials stepped in and gave her two new dates — May 22 if she wins ratification for the Brexit deal negotiated with Brussels, or April 12 to come back with a new plan if she fails.

For the moment, the EU has the upper hand and May, awaiting their discussion in a windowless room on Thursday evening, quickly accepted the offer.

Both camps described their exchanges as cordial, but there is frustration on both sides and there have been hints of nastiness in the Brexit discussions. If a no-deal outcome appears inevitable, the dynamic could rapidly shift further in that direction.

The more immediate worry for both the EU27 and the U.K. is that Brexit is distracting from bigger issues like China policy, said Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Case in point: May did not attend the summit discussions on China on Saturday, saying she needed to return to London to deal with Brexit.

“I question whether the U.K. and EU will become political and economic rivals, as geography, history, financial interests, security concerns, and shared values will necessitate continued close cooperation in some form for the foreseeable future,” Sloat said. “My bigger concern is the all-consuming nature of Brexit, which could prevent the U.K. especially and the EU from engaging effectively against international rivals.”

Noting how the summit dinner on China became a summit dinner on Brexit, Sloat said: “Brexit already dominates debates in London, with a divided Cabinet and parliament having limited bandwidth to engage on global challenges.”

She added, “Even if the U.K. parliament ratifies a Brexit deal, the two sides must then embark on equally complicated and domestically contentious negotiations about their future relationship. In some form, Brexit will afflict Europe for years and risks detracting attention from emerging threats.”

Jacopo Barigazzi and Floria Eder contributed reporting. 

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.


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Theresa May says she blamed MPs out of ‘frustration’

Prime minister acknowledges MPs ‘have difficult jobs to do.’

Theresa May sought to limit the damage caused by her controversial Downing Street statement blaming MPs for the Brexit impasse, admitting that she had been venting “frustration.”

Speaking at a midnight press conference in Brussels after agreeing an extension to the Brexit deadline with the EU27, the U.K. prime minister appeared to express a degree of contrition for the statement in which she said she shared public impatience with “political games” in Westminster.

“I know MPs on all sides of the debate have passionate views, and I respect those different positions,” she said. “Last night I expressed my frustration. I know that MPs are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do.”

A number of MPs condemned the statement, which they said risked heightening anger with MPs and exacerbating a febrile political atmosphere in the U.K.

May said she would return to London on Friday to continue attempting to persuade MPs to back her deal in a vote next week.

At the summit, the EU27 rejected her suggestion of an extension until June 30 if the deal passes, instead shortening the timetable to May 22. If the deal falls — currently the more likely scenario — the U.K. will have until April 12 to present an alternative plan or leave without a deal. If the alternative plan requires a further extension, the U.K. must take part in the European Parliament election in May.

May said she was still believed firmly that it would be “wrong” to make U.K. voters participate in the election, three years after voting to leave the EU. However, she said that if her deal was rejected, the government would “need to work with the House [of Commons] to decide how we proceed.”

Earlier in the day May had refused to rule out taking the U.K. out of the EU without a deal if MPs rejected her agreement again. But she appeared to strike a softer tone in her late-night press conference.

“If Parliament does not agree a deal next week, the EU Council will extend Article 50 until 12 April. At this point we would either leave with no deal, or put forward an alternative plan,” she said.

May returns to Westminster facing opposition on all sides, with the Labour party seeking to build a majority for an alternative Brexit plan focused on changes to the Political Declaration on the future relationship with the EU, to mandate a softer Brexit, with the U.K. remaining in a customs union and close to the single market.

The House of Commons will have the chance to hold votes on Monday on a government motion, with one plan already put forward which would allow MPs to seize control of the parliamentary timetable from the government.

Within her own ministerial ranks, May also faces the risk of revolt from one or other faction if she steers the U.K. either toward or decisively away from a no deal Brexit. One Cabinet minister, Liz Truss, told the Sun newspaper she would far prefer no deal to a long extension, involving participation in the European election.

Meanwhile ITV reported that the Conservative Chief Whip, Julian Smith, the lead enforcer of May’s authority within the parliamentary party, was angered by her Wednesday statement blaming MPs for the impasse.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.


Read this next: EU leaders grant Brexit extension with strings attached

EU leaders grant Brexit extension with strings attached

Until April 12, ‘all options remain open,’ said Council President Donald Tusk.

EU leaders agreed to postpone Brexit day, imposing two new dates — April 12 and May 22 — that will determine the course of the U.K.’s departure.

The new plan, agreed at a summit in Brussels, was a flat rejection of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for an extension of the Article 50 negotiating period to June 30.

Both new dates come with conditions, but in either event the original March 29 deadline — the so-called cliff-edge by which Britain would be expelled from the bloc with or without a divorce agreement — was put off, if only for two weeks.

EU27 leaders said that if the U.K. parliament ratifies the Brexit deal before the March 29 deadline, Britain can have until May 22 to complete the technical steps needed to ratify the deal, exit and begin a transition period. That date is a day before the European Parliament election begins.

If the House of Commons fails to vote by the end of next week, or votes to reject the deal for a third time — the outcome EU leaders appear to view as more likely given continuing political chaos in London — the U.K. would have until April 12 “to indicate a way forward.”

At a press conference after the EU leaders’ meeting, Council President Donald Tusk confirmed that May had agreed to the plan — though in truth, with a no-deal Brexit imminent she had little choice.

“What this means in practice is that until that date [April 12], all options will remain open and the cliff-edge date will be delayed,” said Tusk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the discussion as “very intense but also very successful.”

In essence, the Council had granted Britain an extension until “April 11 or April 12”, she said. “If there is no positive decision [in the House of Commons], this will be the exit date.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said the new plan put the onus on the U.K. “I wanted to absolutely avoid a summit next week that would have been a crisis summit in bad conditions after maybe another non-decision,” he said.

“The clock is ticking not just on Brexit, the clock is also ticking in other areas,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, indicating a certain frustration that the EU has had to spend so much time on Britain’s departure.

In her own press conference, May reiterated her view that it would be wrong for the U.K. to participate in the European Parliament election. “I believe strongly that it would be wrong to ask people in the U.K. to participate in these elections three years after voting to leave the EU,” she said.

“What the decision today underlines is the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week so that we can bring an end to the uncertainty and leave in a smooth and orderly manner,” she added.

The decision came after hours of agonizing, at times angry, debate and followed the U.K. prime minister’s latest appearance at a European Council summit where she left colleagues infuriated by her lack of clarity and inability to steer the Brexit process.

“The European Council agrees to an extension until 22 May 2019, provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons next week,” the leaders wrote in the formal conclusion of their deliberations. “If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council.”

“Our main goal today was to avoid a hard Brexit next week. So there will be a delay until April 12. If the House of Commons votes for the existing deal next week, there will be an extension until May 22 to allow for an orderly Brexit,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters as he left the summit venue.

“But if they do not agree [to the deal] then we’re a step closer to a hard Brexit, of course,” he said, adding that he “strongly recommended” British MPs vote for the deal.

May had requested an extension until June 30 — ignoring a warning from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that the U.K. would have to participate in the European Parliament election if it stayed in the bloc beyond May 22. Leaders swiftly dismissed that request out of hand.

But May’s lack of clarity about what might happen if she failed to win ratification of the deal, and her unwillingness to state what next-steps she envisioned, left the 27 leaders flummoxed and more divided than at any point in the more than two-year-long Brexit process.

The EU27 spent an hour and 45 minutes questioning May at the start of the summit, and got virtually nowhere. One senior EU official said May’s answers were “not always crystal clear.”

Another senior EU official said: “This discussion did not add much in terms of substance. For the leaders, they didn’t get anything that they didn’t know.”

The discussion continued once May had left the room, but the fierce disagreements among the 27 forced the leaders to upend their summit agenda and put off a planned dinner discussion about China and the EU’s place in the world. Instead, they took a break, and resumed the Brexit discussion over dinner — a demonstration that despite their best efforts, Brexit to a large degree has hijacked the EU’s most substantive policy agenda.

It was during dinner that some of the most heated exchanges took place, officials said.

Chief among the factors that complicated the discussions over when to set the new cliff-edge was the upcoming European Parliament election. Leaders fear that the EU will face an institutional crisis if somehow the U.K. remained a member of the bloc but refused to participate in the election and send representatives to Brussels as required under the EU treaties.

But there were numerous other factors, including concerns about how Brexit would impact individual countries, especially Belgium, which has a national election on May 26, coinciding with the EU election.

French President Emmanuel Macron pushed to bring the proposed May 22 deadline forward to May 7. He also took a hard line in suggesting that the EU might need to simply eject the U.K. without any agreement — a move that could prove economically disastrous not just to Britain but to the EU, especially neighboring countries like Ireland and the Netherlands.

In her own press conference, May appeared to row back from her bullish statement in Downing Street last night in which she blamed MPs for the Brexit impasse. That brought an angry response from many of those she is trying to persuade to back her Brexit deal.

“Last night I expressed my frustration. I know that MPs are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do,” she said.

Zia Weise contributed reporting.

EU Confidential episode 91: EU summit — Brexit, Orbán & liberals — Flemish Culture Minister Sven Gatz

This week’s EU Confidential podcast is a summit special. POLITICO’s Andrew Gray, Rym Momtaz and Florian Eder discussed the topic du jour, Brexit, as EU leaders gathered in Brussels. They also chewed over Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party being suspend…

This week’s EU Confidential podcast is a summit special. POLITICO’s Andrew Gray, Rym Momtaz and Florian Eder discussed the topic du jour, Brexit, as EU leaders gathered in Brussels. They also chewed over Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party being suspended from the European People’s Party and the Continent’s liberals entering the EU election fray.

Keeping in mind that some things are bigger than politics, it’s a week of reflection in Brussels, three years on from the March 22 terrorist attacks on the city’s Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station. We try to gain some perspective with Flemish Culture Minister Sven Gatz, whose new book “Molenbeek/Maalbeek: A Brussels Tale” delves into the stories of seven fictional individuals on March 22, 2016. The book is as much about this “lowest point in decades” as it is about Brussels, the city, which is full of people “living side-by-side but not together,” in the words of Gatz.

We also check in again with polling guru Cornelius Hirsch of pollofpolls.eu about the challenges of accurate polling for the European election.

John Bercow to UK MPs: ‘None of you is a traitor’

Parliament speaker hits back after prime minister blamed MPs for Brexit delay.

John Bercow, speaker of the U.K. House of Commons, told MPs they were not “traitors” and must do “what he or she thinks is right,” the day after Theresa May blamed parliament for the Brexit delay.

In a rare address to the nation Wednesday night from inside No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister said: “You the public have had enough … I agree, I am on your side.” She added: “You asked us to get on with it, and that is what I am determined to do.” A longer delay would only serve to “give more time for politicians to argue,” she said, warning that the public was fast losing patience with the “political games” in Westminster.

May’s statement to the nation came after she warned MPs she was not prepared “as prime minister” to delay Brexit any longer than three months.

Bercow on Thursday sought to reassure MPs that they had done nothing wrong.

“None of you is a traitor. All of you are doing your best,” he said.

“I believe passionately in the institution of parliament, in the rights of members of this house, and in their commitment to their duty … The sole duty of every member of parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right.”


Read this next: Angela Merkel: ‘Orderly’ Brexit in UK and EU’s interest

Angela Merkel: ‘Orderly’ Brexit in UK and EU’s interest

EU27 leaders likely to grant UK a Brexit delay — as long as British parliament approves Theresa May’s deal, German chancellor says.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that EU leaders would approve a U.K. request for a three-month extension to the Brexit process, as long as the British parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

“In principle, we can comply with that wish if next week we did get a positive vote on the withdrawal documents in the British parliament,” she said.

However, Merkel noted this would go beyond the date of the upcoming European Parliament election, and “that means the future and the legal certainty of the elections need to be respected.”

The chancellor’s comments, made in the Bundestag ahead of today’s EU summit in Brussels, echo the message from European Council President Donald Tusk Wednesday.

Merkel remains firmly against any no-deal Brexit scenario which, she said, would damage German interests as well as those of the U.K.

“I am still convinced that we need an orderly exit of the U.K,” she told German MPs. “This is not just in the U.K.’s interest … but it is also in the German interest, especially in the German interest and in the interest of the 27 [EU] member states.”

Merkel said EU27 leaders are also likely to agree to May’s request for “a positive decision” by the Council on the document agreed with the European Commission in Strasbourg that deals with the Irish backstop. “I believe I can say that the Council can comply with that request — at least from a German perspective,” Merkel said.

If May’s Withdrawal Agreement is defeated in the U.K. parliament, or if there is no third vote on it, Merkel said the EU “will then hold deeper discussions” and keep open the option to hold another EU summit before the due Brexit date of March 29.


Read this next: Jeremy Hunt: UK faces ‘extreme unpredictability’ if MPs reject Brexit deal again

Jeremy Hunt: UK faces ‘extreme unpredictability’ if MPs reject Brexit deal again

British foreign secretary warns it could lead to no Brexit or EU demands for a second referendum.

Britain faces a period of “extreme unpredictability” if Brexit is not resolved soon, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned today.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today program, Hunt conceded that if Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is defeated for a third time next week, parliament could vote to cancel Brexit, or the EU could push Britain to hold a second referendum, though he said both these options are “unlikely.”

“Only a very limited list of things can happen [if May’s deal fails again],” Hunt said.

“Parliament could vote to revoke Article 50, which is canceling the Brexit process. I think that’s highly unlikely.

“There could be an EU emergency summit to offer us an extension, and we don’t know what the length will be and it could have some very onerous conditions, for example holding a second referendum. Again, I think it’s very unlikely parliament would vote for that,” he added.

“And then we have no-deal as the legal default on Friday. So the choice that we have now is one of resolving this issue or extreme unpredictability.”

May is attending today’s EU summit to ask for a three-month delay to the U.K.’s departure. European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday that the delay she seeks would only be approved by the EU27 if her deal is voted through by MPs in the House of Commons.

Hunt said he doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit, but no Brexit would be “a worse outcome because of the impact on our democracy. The choice is: Do we resolve this or do we have Brexit paralysis?”
He added that the process of negotiations “has sapped our national confidence, and we need to remember what we are capable of as a country. We have a chance now to resolve this and close this chapter and move on to the next chapter.”

Theresa May blames MPs for Brexit delay

The UK prime minister said the delay was ‘a matter of great personal regret.’

LONDON — Theresa May blamed MPs for her request to delay Brexit for three months, warning the public was fast losing patience with the “political games” in Westminster.

In a rare address to the nation Wednesday night from inside Number 10 Downing Street, the U.K. prime minister said her application for an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period was “a matter of great personal regret” but was necessary to deliver Brexit.

The short five-minute address came after another day of high drama in Westminster in which she hinted she would quit rather than delay Brexit any further.

Speaking from behind a lectern inside No.10 Downing Street the prime minister said: “You the public have had enough… I agree, I am on your side.” She added: “You asked us to get on with it, and that is what I am determined to do.” A longer delay would only serve to “give more time for politicians to argue,” she argued.

May’s statement to the nation came after she warned MPs earlier in the day she was not prepared “as prime minister” to delay Brexit any further than three months.

The remark sparked immediate speculation she will quit if parliament votes down her deal for a third time, leaving only no-deal Brexit or a second request for a much longer extension the remaining options without halting Brexit altogether.

“Prime Minister May’s proposal until the 30th of June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature” — Donald Tusk

Extending beyond July would mean the U.K. taking part in elections for the European Parliament in May — a prospect May said was “unacceptable.”

Responding to May’s request for a short extension to the end of June, European Council President Donald Tusk said this would only be granted if the House of Commons passed the prime minister’s deal before March 29. Tusk’s intervention effectively presents MPs with a choice between May’s deal, no-deal and an uncertain lengthy extension which will be determined by EU leaders.

British Prime Minister Theresa May | Leon Neal/Getty Images

In his statement, Tusk said details about an extension remained to be discussed but that EU27 leaders could not make any decisions until the House of Commons voted to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and accompanying Political Declaration.

“Prime Minister May’s proposal until the 30th of June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature,” Tusk said. “Leaders will discuss this tomorrow.”

In her letter, May said she hoped to bring her deal back for another vote but could not say when, or even if it would happen before the existing Brexit deadline of March 29.

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This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.

EU summit: Live blog

Brexit, China and fake news among the big-ticket items on the agenda.

Theresa May is in Brussels Thursday to ask for more time on Brexit as EU leaders gather for a two-day summit, with China, trade and disinformation also on the agenda.

The British prime minister wants the EU27 to agree to delay the U.K.’s departure deadline until June 30, but European Council President Donald Tusk has already said there won’t be a Brexit extension unless the House of Commons passes the deal May reached with Brussels.

EU leaders are also expected to yield to pressure from Berlin and Paris and “endorse” a law that will restrict the access of Chinese companies to the EU’s €2.4 trillion-per-year public procurement market.

Draft conclusions for the European Council also back the European Commission’s aim of beginning trade talks with the U.S. soon, and leaders will discuss fighting fake news ahead of May’s European election.

Scroll down to follow POLITICO’s live coverage throughout the summit.

**A message from the Romanian EU Council Presidency: “A borderless and transformative digital Europe”: That is one of the Romanian Presidency’s mottos. This year’s Startup Europe Summit will look at how Europe can best support its startup community. The summit will take place in Cluj-Napoca, Romania — home of a vibrant startup community. More here**