European Union leaders staved off the threat of the U.K. crashing out of the bloc without a deal next Friday by giving Theresa May an extra two weeks to work out what to do.
At a summit in Brussels on Thursday, the leaders told May that if U.K. lawmakers don’t endorse her Brexit deal next week, she’ll have until April 12 to decide whether to leave without agreement or request a much longer extension. The decision removes the immediate possibility of a no-deal Brexit in seven days’ time.
It also gives May a powerful threat to issue to pro-Brexit hardliners in her party: Back the deal or risk being trapped in the EU for much longer. May said she’ll put the unpopular accord back to parliament next week.
The pound rose 0.2 percent against the dollar in early trading Friday after falling as much as 1.5 percent during Thursday trading.
More than seven hours of discussion began with May delivering her most extensive pitch yet to the 27 remaining leaders before she was asked to leave the room while they thrashed out their response.
“The cliff edge will be delayed,” EU President Donald Tusk said after May accepted the proposal. “I was really sad before our meeting, now I’m much more optimistic.”
But in private, EU leaders weren’t so optimistic that May will be able to pull it off next week.
French President Emmanuel Macron told his counterparts that he thought there was a 10 percent chance of the deal passing, then after hearing from May he decided it was 5 percent, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Tusk replied: I think that’s a bit optimistic, the person said.