The EU has agreed to delay Brexit until 22 May if MPs can agree on a withdrawal deal next week or 12 April if there is no agreement.
The EU’s decision to allow the postponement comes just a day after a petition to scrap Brexit was so popular it crashed the parliamentary website several times during the day.
The meeting ran late into the night but an agreement was eventually reached between the 27 member states. European Council President Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter that the parties had reached a “unanimous” agreement.
“The UK government will still have a choice of a deal, no deal, a long extension, or revoking Article 50,” Tusk explained.
“If the UK has not decided to hold European elections by April 12, the option of a long extension will automatically become impossible.”
EU agrees Brexit delay until 22 May if MPs approve withdrawal deal next week, or 12 April if they do not https://t.co/kUTH2MDwAp
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) March 21, 2019
Petition against Brexit gained mass support
That petition to ditch Brexit will now have to be debated in parliament. All petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures must be debated under the petitions scheme.
The petition calls on Theresa May to revoke Article 50 and cancel the UK’s exit from the EU, which is scheduled for next Friday, 29 March despite consensus on an exit plan nowhere in sight.
“The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ‘the will of the people’,” the petition reads. “We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People’s Vote may not happen – so vote now.”
It quickly became the most supported petition in the history of the website and was attracting 2,000 signatures a minute at one point.
U.K. petition site crashes as more than 1 million demand the government cancels Brexit https://t.co/Xpofl8fk5Z
— TIME (@TIME) March 21, 2019
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, thew his support behind the petition. “If on Tuesday MPs do not back the withdrawal agreement then the only way for the UK to take back control of the Brexit process is to revoke the article 50 notification,” he told Sky News.
The surging support for the petition underlines May’s ongoing woes in trying to get Brexit over the line. She has repeatedly refused to consider revoking Article 50.
A spokesperson for May said: “The PM has long been clear that failing to deliver on the referendum result would be a failure of democracy and a failure she wouldn’t countenance.”
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 21, 2019
Little chance of May securing support for a Brexit plan by next week
EU leaders had reportedly become resigned to the fact that May’s Brexit plan will not win support in a parliamentary vote next week. The UK Prime Minister made a 90 minute presentation, but it was considered “disappointing” and the leaders instead turned to considering a plan that would delay Brexit until whenever UK parliament approves May’s exit deal.
Less than a month ago, May told the House of Commons: “We would only leave without a deal with the consent of parliament.” Now, however, an increasing number of parliamentarians think a no-deal Brexit is likely.
Last week, MPs had supported a non-binding vote against a no-deal Brexit by a motion of 321 to 278.
Cabinet ministers have said the mood in parliament is depressing and Number 10, the headquarters of the UK government, is now “run by lunatics”.
The British Ministry of Defence has even put 3,500 troops on standby to “aid contingency plans” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Header image credit: Number 10