NINE out of ten Britons believe the UK’s handling of Brexit is a ‘national humiliation’, a poll shows.
Only seven per cent don’t feel it has been embarrassing and just three per cent have no opinion, found Sky Data.
It came as the EU said it would back a short delay to Brexit — if MPs finally vote in favour of Theresa May’s deal next week. The announcement raised the prospect of Britain crashing out on March 29 with no agreement in place.
But the European Council president Donald Tusk left the door open for a longer delay if MPs refuse for a third time to back the PM. ‘If there is such a need, I will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council to Brussels next week,’ he said.
Mr Tusk’s response came after Mrs May, who blamed the hold-up on MPs in a TV speech at No.10 last night, wrote to request a postponement untilno later than June 30. She said in the speech that voters wanted an end to the uncertainty, adding: ‘All MPs have been willing to say is what they don’t want. I will work night and day to secure the support of my colleagues and the DUP and votes for this deal.
‘But I’m not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30.’
The prospect of a no-deal by default could prompt some Labour MPs to vote for the agreement. But they could stand firm in the hope that the PM, who fears crashing out risks economic harm, will have to plead for a longer delay.
The EU has previously said it will only grant a long extension if Britain comes up with a plan to break the political deadlock at Westminster.
And that might involve allowing MPs to find a Brexit strategy they agree on, holding a fresh referendum or calling the general election that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been asking for.
Mrs May held a cabinet meeting at No.10 yesterday and later summoned leaders of other parties for talks as she continued arguing for her deal.
But Mr Corbyn walked out because Chuka Umunna, who resigned from the party to form The Independent Group, had been invited.
Labour blamed Downing Street for ‘breaking the terms’ of the meeting and claimed it was a sign of ‘chaos’ in the government.
But Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said Mr Corbyn’s refusal to attend on the grounds that Mr Umunna was not a proper party leader was a ‘strange way’ to behave amid the Brexit deadlock. Mr Umunna said: ‘I find it extraordinary behaviour in a national crisis.’
In the Commons, Mrs May said she would agree to only a short delay because a longer one would lead to ‘endless hours of this House contemplating its navel’.
But her comments sparked fury from both pro-Leave and pro-EU Tories, with Remainer Dominic Grieve saying: ‘I have never felt more ashamed to be a member of the Conservative Party.
‘I think it was the worst moment I have experienced since I came into the House of Commons.’
Peter Bone, from the European Research Group of hard Brexiteer Tories, told the PM: ‘If you continue to apply for an extension you will be betraying the British people.
‘History will judge you at this moment. Which is it to be?’
Mrs May replied: ‘We need time for this parliament to ratify a deal, and in order to do that we need an extension until June 30.’
Tory Remainer Sam Gyimah warned that a short extension increased the chance of a no-deal ‘by about 60 per cent’, before accusing Mrs May of being ‘downright reckless’. And Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said the PM was the ‘road block to progress’, adding: ‘Her actions make no-deal far more likely, not less.’
Mr Tusk expressed scepticism that MPs would back the deal. But he said: ‘Although hope for final success may seem frail and illusory we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution.
‘Of course, without reopening the withdrawal agreement.’
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Britain’s future would be ‘in the hands of God’ if MPs would not back the deal, adding: ‘I think even God sometimes reaches a limit to his patience.’
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said an extension was unlikely to be granted without MPs approving the deal. And his German counterpart Heiko Maas added: ‘If we are to decide on extending the deadline, we would like to know why, why, why?’
Mr Corbyn will meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels this morning ahead of Mrs May’s arrival for the latest summit of leaders from member states.
The Labour leader branded her deal a ‘damaging national failure’.