Days before the U.K.’s Oct. 31 deadline to leave the European Union, the multinational bloc agreed to Britain’s request on Monday to postpone the departure another three months.
With the announcement came another incongruously delightful portmanteau: European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday that the other 27 countries in the EU tentatively signed off on a Brexit “flextension,” a flexible extension — natch — that will allow the U.K. to remain in the bloc through Jan. 31 or leave earlier if it reaches an agreement before then.
“This gives time for the UK to make clear what it wants,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said somewhat hopefully.
Short of a significant shift in momentum, however, the recent political turmoil in London has offered little indication that an easy solution is on the horizon.
Since Boris Johnson took office as prime minister in July, he has been at loggerheads with lawmakers wary of his aggressive approach to Brexit. Johnson’s bid to suspend Parliament for five weeks unraveled in court, his attempts to call snap elections initially failed to gain traction and many of his fellow Conservatives broke ranks to approve a bill blocking him from letting the U.K. leave the EU without a deal — despite Johnson’s own claim that he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than seek another delay.
The U.K. had been scheduled to leave the EU on March 29 of this year, until the bloc granted a request to postpone that was put forth by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. On Oct. 19, Johnson asked for another extension, as he was required to do by the new law.
“Relieved that finally no one died in a ditch,” Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian member of European Parliament and Brexit negotiator for the EU, said Monday in a tongue-in-cheek tweet. “Whether the UK’s democratic choice is revoke or an orderly withdraw, confirmed or not in a second referendum, the uncertainty of Brexit has gone on for far too long. This extra time must deliver a way forward.”One way forward may very well run through the British ballot box.